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Governor Proposes Unpaid Furloughs, Job Cutbacks For State Employees

Legislators unsure whether they're done for the year or not.

Sponsored By:

Sheila R. Veloz

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth is home for Christmas – maybe.

The ongoing budget crisis in Sacramento
is racking up frequent flyer miles for the local politician, but he doesn’t
mind if it solves the problems facing the state.

Today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he will
require two-day-a-month unpaid furloughs (days off) for state employees
beginning in February to save money. The furloughs, which could amount to a 10
percent pay cut for the employees, will continue through June 2010, if the plan
is executed.

He also announced a plan to slash 10 percent of the state’s
work force, which could result in thousands of people losing their jobs.

“The reaction is mixed,” Smyth told KHTS. “A lot of those
are state employees that are unionized and Democrats and they have a different
degree of influence over legislators. It kind of varies from member to member.”

Unions are not happy with the two proposals and the Service
Employees International Union Local 1000 said they plan to sue the
administration under an unfair labor practice law. The union was successful in
blocking an earlier order from Schwarzenegger that proposed reducing pay for
more than 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour.

In the meantime, the Governor is touring the state,
reminding people that the budget crisis gets worse and worse by the minute,
even installing a cost ticker on his web page that counts the amount of money
the state allegedly loses by the legislature’s failure to agree on a solution.

An $18 billion proposal passed by Democratic legislators that
would have raised gas, sales and income taxes and cut funding to schools and
health care was vetoed by the Governor on Thursday.

“I think the biggest impact is the lack of an economic
stimulus package which has to be part of any budget deal as far as I’m
concerned,” Smyth said. “The purpose of that is to get people back to work, help
businesses hire and expand.”

Smyth also noted that streamlining the California
Environmental Quality Act would help the economy.

“It has delayed several infrastructure projects, including
some in my district that will be impacted. We’re not proposing to eliminate
CEQA, for it can be pretty onorous. It has delayed several projects that the
treasurer said were in trouble; if it wasn’t for CEQA, some of those projects
may have been completed.”

State Controller John Chaing said that in its present
condition, California will run
out of money by February.

“That is completely uncharted territory,” Smyth said. “Constitutionally,
states cannot declare bankruptcy. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a
scary time to be a Californian.

“I have no desire to go off the financial cliff, but at the
same token, I’m not going to support billions of dollars of tax increases that
don’t solve the structural problem of the state.”

The legislature is tentatively scheduled to reconvene after
the New Year on Jan. 5, but things could change if the Governor calls another
special session.