The Schwarzenegger administration is poised to appeal a judge’s ruling blocking the governor from forcing thousands of state employees to take three unpaid days off per month.
The Republican governor sought the furloughs to help balance the state budget, which faces a $19 billion shortage. A previous round of furloughs ended last month. The governor’s latest order would impose the furloughs on about 150,000 state workers for the second, third and fourth Fridays of each month.
On Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven A. Brick blocked the furloughs, which had been set to begin this Friday, Aug. 13.
Brick said he had ‘serious questions’ about the legality of the furloughs and that putting them into effect before the scheduled Sept. 13 Supreme Court hearing could cause ‘great or irreparable harm.’
The upshot of Brick’s ruling, observers said, is that it preserves the existing status quo and allows both sides more time to press their case. The state’s public employee unions have opposed the administration’s furlough orders, contending that they violate collective bargaining agreements and have been applied unfairly.
According to the administration, the furloughs were projected to save about $7.2 million per month, including $80 million for the general fund.
Schwarzenegger had previously ordered furloughs in 2009 and 2010, but the legality of the plans remain in dispute. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the issue following the Sept. 13 hearing. The administration immediately appealed Brick’s ruling.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the administration hoped to get a favorable ruling from the appellate court. The governor’s office expects the furloughs to go into effect on Friday, as previously planned, he said.
State Controller John Chiang has warned that the state’s cash reserves will run dry in October, forcing him to issue IOUs. The budget has been delayed since July 1, the beginning of the 2010-11 fiscal year. Under the constitution, the Legislature must approve a budget and send it to the governor by June 15, and the governor must sign it into law by July 1.