Furloughs Close Doors On Californians

February 6, 2009 10:20:28 PM PST
On the state level the budget crisis in California has been taken to a new level of desperation as many government offices were shut-down on Friday. These forced furloughs left workers without a day of pay and Californians without a day of state services.It's the first Furlough Friday, the twice a month shutdown of most state offices, to help ease the budget crisis. Some DMV workers tried to come in anyway, but couldn't.

"The doors are locked, we can't get in. Shutting down the entire state is a sad situation and got to do that twice a month. But we're here and we're ready to work," said Angela Ramirez, a DMV worker.

The shutdown was a major inconvenience for Californians who needed state services, like vehicle registration.

"I just bought this van. So, I want to get it under my name." Jaydi Diaz, a DMV customer.
"Did you know DMV is closed?" asked ABC7's Nannette Miranda.
"Nooooo! A Friday? I need the Friday!" said Diaz.

The Governor's furlough order saves the state nearly $1.5 billion at a time when California is facing a $42 billion deficit.

"Every California family and business is cutting back right now. State government needs to do the same, and that's what these furloughs are about," said Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

The unpaid leaves also mean 200,000 plus state workers will see their paychecks cut about 10-percent for the next 16 months. However, that lower salary didn't stop other state workers. If the front door opened, like it did for CalTrans engineers, it was like any other work day, except they're working for free. They didn't want private contractors doing state work to be delayed and increase project costs.

"I can't in good conscience cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars if there's a problem on a construction site. I've got to be there to answer the phones if there's a problem," said Mike Whiteside, a CalTrans bridge engineer.

Others said the alternative to furloughs is worse.

"Fill every seat of the Rose Bowl and that's how many people in California lost their jobs in a matter of eight weeks. Being employed in this economy is fortunate," said H.D. Palmer, from the California Finance Department.

Also at work were the 15,000 employees under the state's constitutional officers, like the attorney general and the superintendent of schools. They say the judge's ruling that made the furloughs legal does not apply to them, since they are technically not under the governor.

The governor's lawyers are preparing to sue the constitutional officers early next week to force them to furlough their workers. So it looks like the legal battles on this issue aren't over.


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