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California Supreme Court Rules Last Year's Furloughs Were Legal

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 4, 2010

The State Supreme Court ruled that many of the Governor's cost saving measures last year were legal. Chief among those was ordering state workers to take several unpaid days off each month. Aaron McLear is a spokesman for the Governor.

"Well the court said the Governor's actions to cut spending and live within our means were ok. The line item vetoes he took were ok. The furlough program he did was ok. And so that's certainly a victory for us." 

Bruce Blanning is the Executive Director of Professional Engineers in California Government, one of the plaintiff's in the case. He says the unions didn't get everything they'd hoped for, but still feel like they won.

"Their ruling was whether or not the Governor had unilateral authority to impose furloughs. And the court ruled; no he doesn't. He can't just shut state offices, send people home, cut their pay by himself." 

The court found that last year's furloughs were legal because they were approved by the legislature as a part of the budget. Neither side expressed any intent to continue legal action on the subject.
The State Supreme Court's decision that Governor Schwarzenegger had the legal power to furlough state workers last year may have resolved the issue for 2009. But it leaves open the questions about the legality of this year's furloughs. Ken Jacobs is with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Davis.

"It is very narrow, specific and fact based. Which doesn't establish any kind of precedent, or change anything going forward."   

Jacobs says the Court focused on the fact that last year's furloughs were a part of a budget that was approved by the legislature. In the future, the Governor will have to get the legislature's approval for furloughs.

The current round of furloughs was reinstated before a budget agreement last Friday. The details of that budget have yet to be announced.

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