Governor Threatens 20,000 Layoffs

February 10, 2009 8:30:29 PM PST
Twenty-thousand state workers could be among the next to join the ranks of the unemployed. The governor announces there will be massive layoffs unless lawmakers can settle on a budget soon. Friday is the deadline the governor has imposed on lawmakers. If they want to stop his layoff notices from going out, he says they will need to get a deal done this week.The governor's office insists this is not a scare tactic to force lawmakers to reach a budget deal, but rather, a step to cut state spending.

Just days after the first-ever furloughs took effect for California state workers, a bombshell from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Twenty-thousand pink slips could go out this Friday if a budget deal isn't reached.

"He has very few resources to act unilaterally, one of which is to do layoffs. As he has said, this is not his preference, not something he wants to do, but because the Legislature has failed to deliver a budget up to this point, we are left with very few choices," said Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

Leaders have been stuck for nearly a hundred days on how to address that $42 billion deficit, and each day of the delay, there are consequences.

When asked about the potential for 20,000 layoff notices, Democratic State Senator Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said, "We want to do everything we can to avert those layoff notices."

The governor hopes to save $750 million with the layoffs which are aimed at public employees with the least seniority.

Because of union contracts, the firings can take months after the letters go out. While the plan is for 20,000 notices, it will likely affect half that in actual people because of attrition and transfers. Still, that doesn't ease any worries.

"It's real scary. In this economy, who's safe? I mean, what's safe?" said state worker Jinnel Thomas.

Hundreds of people employed on public works projects are even closer to the unemployment line. Because of no budget, the state has pulled its funding this week.

"If I lose my job, they should lose theirs. If I don't get paid, they shouldn't get paid," said construction worker John Griffin.

Democratic leaders are saying they could have a budget vote in the next few days, thus averting state worker layoff notices from going out.

The layoffs could also be avoided if public employee unions agree to alternatives that save the same amount of money, including giving back two of 14 paid state holidays and eliminating overtime and sick time abuses.