The California Supreme Court ruled this morning that state workers were legally furloughed and are not entitled to back pay.
The ruling affects more than 200,000 state workers forced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to take unpaid days off since February 2009.
The court said in its ruling that Schwarzenegger did not have unilateral authority to impose furloughs but that the Legislature tacitly agreed to them by passing budget bills that assumed furlough savings.
The governor imposed 46 furlough days through June 30, reducing payroll costs by about $3 billion. He imposed another round of them in August to save money as the state budget impasse lingered.
Employees sued to block the measure, and Supreme Court heard oral arguments last month.
"We're very disappointed by today's ruling," said Patty Velez, an environmental scientist at the Department of Fish & Game and president of the California Association of Professional Scientists. "The furlough program may have satisfied the governor's need to inflict financial pain on the state work force, but we now know it did little to save money for California taxpayers."
Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying the furloughs were "difficult decisions" he had to make to keep the state afloat. "Today's ruling upholds the state's actions to protect taxpayers and ensure we live within our means, just like every California family and business must do," he said.