The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 10, 2009
Nagging questions about the furlough

The way that just about every media outlet has dropped coverage of California's state worker furloughs, you'd think that it was a one-and-done deal. Obviously, it's not.

If Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette's ruling in support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's emergency furlough power stands up to appeals, we think it's a potential game changer that shifts more power to set workplace conditions to the executive -- and away from the Legislature and the unions.

So how the furlough plays out will have consequences far beyond last Friday and, perhaps, far beyond June 2010 when they're scheduled to end. Some questions that we scribbled down after a recent lunch with Jason Dickerson, the guy at the Legislative Analyst's Office who looks at state worker issues:

  • Will the furloughs push some longtime state employees to retire a few years earlier than they might have? If furloughs do accelerate retirements of experienced, knowledgeable workers, what impact will that have on state services? How would a wave of earlier retirements impact CalPERS?
  • How will the Legislature react to this expanded gubernatorial leverage? Is a bill in the offing to limit the executive's furlough power? Would the next governor sign such a bill? If the bill is vetoed, would the Legislature be able to muster a two-thirds override vote?
  • Will furloughs become a gubernatorial campaign issue next year as candidates vie for union PAC contributions?
  • As colleague Hudson Sangree noted in his recent story about Yolo County furloughs, some workers there learned to adapt. When the state's furlough program ends, will state employees be upset that they have to go back to full work weeks?
  • If constitutional officers win the pending court fight over whether they have to furlough their employees, would that prompt migration by some state workers who want to avoid the furlough? (We've received a couple of e-mails from state workers who said they're considering it.)

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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