After Court Ruling, California's Furlough Fridays Are Back
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Nearly 150,000 California state workers are taking an unpaid day off today (Aug. 20). Meanwhile, in Sacramento, lawmakers are 50 days late in passing a budget, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger even suggesting at one point during the standoff that he may leave office before it is resolved.
Fiscal crisis is a familiar story in California, and as the current budget negotiations drag on, some of the most notorious signs of the state's inability to pay its bills are coming back.
So-called "Furlough Fridays" have returned because the California Supreme Court this week sided with the Schwarzenegger administration — at least temporarily — to keep them in place until arguments in a larger case about their legality can be heard on Sept. 8. State worker unions sued the administration over the three scheduled unpaid Fridays off they are being ordered to take each month, which, as The San Francisco Chronicle noted , amount to a 15 percent pay cut.
If the high court eventually sides with the unions in the case being heard in September, the state very well could be on the hook for more than $1 billion in back pay for public employees.
Meanwhile, as lawmakers seek ways to close an estimated $19 billion budget shortfall, the state controller, John Chiang, warned that California soon could be forced to stop paying its bills and start issuing IOUs. The Chronicle noted that the state has been reduced to this drastic step only twice since the Great Depression: last year and in 1992. The state issued 450,000 IOUs amounting to more than $2.6 billion last year.
The budget crisis has done little in the way of getting Democrats and Republicans in the statehouse to work together. It's an election year, and "there's little urgency" in doing anything unpopular before voters cast their ballots, The Christian Science Monitor reported.