Judge Rules California State Worker Furloughs Invalid

Michael Santo's picture

Earlier this year, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered state workers to take furloughs in an attempt to close the state's burgeoning budget gap. On Thursday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that in doing so Schwarzennegger overstepped his powers, and ordered the state to halt to furloughs for a number of state employees.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said California must halt the furloughs for workers represented by three unions, including Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents 95,000 state employees. His ruling was based on the two separate bases.

First, Roesch said the administration could not take the action against employees in so-called "special fund" agencies, or those that receive money from sources other than the state general fund. Secondly, he also said Schwarzenegger had overstepped his authority by claiming the furloughs were necessary to deal with a budgetary emergency. It was not immediately clear whether the decision would be used to affect those employees not represented by the three unions that brought the case.

Roesch added the governor can overstep the State Legislature's normal authority in an emergency only for a temporary period. That period, he stated, ended once the Legislature passed a state budget. "The Executive Orders themselves appear to recognize that the emergency necessitating them was the failure of the Legislature to pass the budgets, though the reach of the orders extended long after those budgets were subsequently passed and signed into law."

Governor Schwarzenegger has been forcing most state working to take three days off a month without pay. The mandatory "furloughs," as they were called, began in February and were extended over the summer. They affect about 200,000 state workers and were expected to save the state $2 billion.

Following the decision, Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the administration would appeal. An appeal would automatically stay the ruling. However, union leaders announced their intention to ask Judge Roesch to immediately implement the order.

Written by Michael Santo

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