Layoffs of 5,000 state workers target prison officers, social service employees

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to lay off 5,000 state employees will fall hardest on prison officers and on social service workers, while employees of some of the state's largest departments will not be affected, his top finance official said.

That's because to save the state money, the jobs that are cut must come from the state's General Fund, the main coffer of income,  corporation and other taxes. Some state agencies depend heavily on the General Fund for their money, such as the Department of Corrections and the Department of Social Services.

But agencies such as the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Employment Development Department are financed largely by fees they and special taxes targeting specific tasks, and thus are not subject to the planned layoffs. The California Highway Patrol also would not be subject to the layoffs.

Schwarzenegger's top budget writer, Finance Director Mike Genest, described the state's painful budget options – including the layoffs and the sale of surplus state property — as voters prepared to decide Tuesday on several budget-balancing propositions. The he said the state's dismal finances and dwindling revenues were "at the level of the Great Depression."

Depending on what happens at the ballot box, the state's projected budget shortage could be about $15 billion or $21 billion – the result of the passage or failure of the half-dozen ballot propositions.

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