Furloughs for California state employees to resume

Roughly 150,000 California state employees face furloughs again beginning Friday after a state Supreme Court ruling Wednesday.

Most of the state's bureaucracy, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Public Health, will be closed for business Friday of this week and next week.

The California Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that temporarily blocked mandatory unpaid days off for state workers. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered workers to take three such days per month to conserve cash amid the state's budget impasse.

Now 50 days into the fiscal year, lawmakers have been unable to reach a budget agreement. State Controller John Chiang said Wednesday that without a budget, he will have to issue IOUs in the "next two to four weeks" to keep the state solvent.

Several unions had sued to block the renewal of worker furloughs after their members had been forced to take unpaid days off from February 2009 to June 2010. The high court said Wednesday that all furlough litigation — including the lower court's restraining order — was to be put on hold until it rules on the larger issue of whether Schwarzenegger has the power to order the time off.

Oral arguments in that case are set for Sept. 8.

Schwarzenegger has ordered workers not only to take furloughs on the next two Fridays but also to take a floating unpaid day by the end of August. The unpaid days roughly equal a 14% pay cut.

Six labor bargaining units have been exempted from the governor's order after striking tentative contracts with him that include pension cutbacks.

People working in law enforcement and tax-collection agencies, and those paid through specially earmarked funds, also are exempt.

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

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