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The same day that thrice-monthly furloughs officially ended for other state workers this week, the Senate decided to lift its requirement that aides with salaries above $50,000 take one unpaid day off per month.

Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt characterized Thursday's move as an "administrative decision that I made" and said his Senate bosses "thought it made sense because the governor stopped doing furloughs."

"What's the point -- to be the only agency in the state to have furloughs?" Schmidt said of his rationale for dropping the program. "It didn't make any sense to do it anymore."

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said the Senate will cut its spending in other ways to help ease the state's projected $19.1 billion budget deficit.

No specific program has been announced for the new fiscal year, but last year the Senate canceled various contracts, froze equipment purchases and reduced printing costs, among other things.

Barankin said the Senate has not given its employee raises in several years, is maintaining a hiring freeze for all but essential positions, and will continue to sacrifice in helping bridge the budget gap.

About 600 of the Senate's work force of about 900 employees were affected by the furlough imposed in mid-2009.

The Assembly, by contrast, opted not to impose forced time off last year, implementing other budget-cutting strategies.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, before ending the furlough of state workers Thursday, had proposed other ways of cutting into workers' compensation in the new fiscal year.

The budget proposal released by Schwarzenegger in May called for a 5 percent employee pay cut, and a doubling of the percentage that most workers pay into their pension accounts - from 5 percent to 10 percent.

Tentative agreements struck recently with a handful of employee unions would alter the terms of worker sacrifice, such as replacing a pay cut with 12 unpaid days off this fiscal year and imposing other compensation reductions.

Neither the Senate nor the Assembly has proposed cutting their employees' pay.

Because the Legislature failed to pass a budget by the start of the new fiscal year, pay for legislators and their aides will be withheld - but not forfeited - until a new spending plan is adopted.


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