Furlough Friday in California

Thousands of state workers in California are waking up to their first furlough Friday as California struggles to fill in a budget hole of $40 million dollars. The unpaid day off is the first of many to come as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered furloughs on the first and third Friday of each month through June 2010.

“California is one of about a dozen states that are experiencing severe budget problems,” said OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger. “The impact is an estimated savings of $1.3 billion but the cost to state employee morale is devastating.”

Barger explained that the furloughs will reduce a state employees pay by about 10 percent. “State employees are waking up today deciding how they are going to handle the reality of a pay cut and how this will impact their work and family life.”

Not all of state government is shutting down. Some agencies are outside the governor’s direct jurisdiction and exempt from his furlough order. For instance, Community Colleges, the Legislature, and the Public Utilities Commission are open. “The California Highway Patrol uniform division is exempt and corrections will be implementing furloughs in other ways,” said Barger. “The Treasurers office, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General and several other statewide elected officials’ offices will not implement the furloughs as well.”

Barger pointed to 2002-2003 in Oklahoma was impacted by a $700 million dollar shortfall. “We furloughed, RIF’d and offered voluntary buyouts to employees reducing the total number of state employees by approximately 1,200. It was a very grim time. This budget cycle, while $600 million dollars short is offset by the carry-over money from last year and could be tamed by a robust rainy day fund if needed. OPEA will be keeping a sharp eye on national trends as they apply to Oklahoma.”

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