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State shutting down 2 days a month?

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Red 1221
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Age : Join date : 2008-12-11 Posts : 57 Location :

PostSubject: State shutting down 2 days a month?   Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:36 pm

From the Sac Bee

California will close most state offices on the first and third Fridays each month starting in February, padlocking DMV outlets and other services while reducing state worker pay to help survive a massive budget problem, according to a state Department of Personnel Administration memo.

Only offices deemed critical, such as state hospitals and prisons, will remain open under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's twice monthly furlough plan. Employees at those state operations will still be required to take two days off each month at different times. State parks generate revenue and will not close, but employees will have to take two days off each month, said Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for DPA.

The uniform measure is intended to make the furlough plan more manageable for the state and save money on utilities at state buildings. Unless the state grants waivers to DMV drivers will have two fewer days each month to take tests or register their vehicles.

"Certainly shutting down state services for two days a month will have an effect, but we are faced with few options to keep the state solvent," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "The governor does not want to make these cuts in state programs, he does not want to raise taxes, but we have a responsibility to lead this state through a financial crisis."

The first shutdown would take place Feb. 6, and state workers are expected to stay home that day unless told otherwise. Agency secretaries plan to send memos to employees this afternoon explaining how the changes will be implemented.

"One reason to do first and third Fridays was so we could obtain cost savings by also shutting down facilities," McLear said. "We asked agency secretaries for input beforehand, and the consensus was to do it on Fridays. Typically state government is not as active on Fridays. And we felt that since we are giving workers a day off without pay, to soften that blow we felt it was fair to give them a three-day weekend."

Schwarzenegger on Friday sent lawmakers his formal proposal for tackling a $40 billion budget deficit through June 2010. The plan includes a temporary 1.5-cent sales tax hike, spending cuts and borrowing, among other solutions.

The governor last month told 238,000 state workers that he had signed an executive order mandating that they take two unpaid days off each month starting in February because the budget crisis "requires sacrifices from everyone." He also said that the least senior one-fifth of the state workforce would be at risk of layoff or transfer.

The governor's order does not affect parts of state government over which he has no authority, including the Legislature, the judicial branch, and the University of California and California State University systems.

The monthly two-day furlough represents nearly a 10 percent cut in wages. Managers and other non-union employees will receive a 10-percent salary reduction. The furloughs will have no impact on benefits, according to a Department of Personnel Administration memo.

The state will save an estimated $1.3 billion over 17 months under the furlough plan. The move could have a significant impact on the Sacramento region, where the state employs 73,536 workers in Sacramento County alone, including 63,818 full time.

Democratic lawmakers oppose the furlough proposal and believe the governor should negotiate such decisions with labor unions, but it is unlikely that they will be able to stop the furloughs through the legislative process. They are trying to block Schwarzenegger from installing further cuts to state worker pay, such as canceling two holidays and eliminating overtime pay on the remaining holidays.

Labor unions have taken up the fight in court. A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Friday scheduled a hearing on their challenge for Jan. 29, eight days before the first furlough is scheduled to begin.

Call The Bee's Kevin Yamamura, (916) 326-5548.
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