Schwarzenegger says he'll impose third unpaid furlough day

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he would force state workers to take a third unpaid furlough day every month if lawmakers do not pass a balanced budget by Tuesday.

The move came as another round of budget votes in the Legislature failed to produce a remedy for California's looming insolvency.

Schwarzenegger said in a statement that in imposing an additional furlough day, he would be doing his part "to conserve cash so that the state can continue to operate."

Controller John Chiang has said he would have to begin issuing IOUs next Thursday if the budget crisis is not resolved by then.

Three furlough days would amount to nearly a 15% pay cut for the state's workers, who have been ordered to stay home two days a month without pay since February. The new furlough order would go into effect Wednesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, and save the state $420 million, according to H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance.

The governor "continues to use state workers as pawns," said Yvonne Walker, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents 95,000 state employees.

A joint legislative budget committee last week rejected a proposed new 5% pay cut for state workers, but Schwarzenegger can implement furloughs through executive order.

Friday marked the third straight day GOP lawmakers voted against Democratic proposals to balance the state's books, which show a $24-billion projected deficit.

Republican senators blocked several budget revisions that included a $15 hike in the annual vehicle license fee to keep roughly 220 state parks open and a new tax on homeowners' insurance to pay for emergency response systems. A third measure contained accounting maneuvers to accelerate tax collections.

Democrats could revive the measures later.

Senate GOP leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta derided the vote as a "political drill" involving measures that don't close the full deficit.

The Democratic proposals considered this week would reduce the shortfall by more than $21 billion, said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), calling the approach "anything but piecemeal."

Democrats have also proposed $2 billion in tax increases on oil and tobacco, but those have not come to a vote.

Members of the majority party pressed their package as necessary to prevent the issuance of IOUs.

"We have less than 100 hours to get our act together," said Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter).

Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders said they would meet privately over the weekend, with the full Legislature to reconvene Sunday evening.



Times staff writer Michael Rothfeld contributed to this report.

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