Furloughs And Shutdowns and Budgets, Oh My!

There is a great movie in which a person decides that he wants to bring down a huge and prosperous
company. The best way to do so, he decides, is to do so from the inside,
intentionally running things so slap-dash and inefficiently, as to force
the company into a tailspin. As things go down, down, down, some of
the top members head for the hills. As their last resort, all of the
fellow employees turn to their CEO, who was less of a micromanager than
a laissez-faire type of guy everyone likes. With his reputation and
future on the line, he must ask himself, like the proverbial last person
left with the bill, what does he do? What DOES he do??

Of course, this is just a movie.
In the real world, one person is not responsible for the sad state of
California’s budget fiasco. Sadly, all of the residents of this “company”
are indeed at the mercy of the few who helped get us here in the first
place. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poor guy stuck with the bill,
working his best magic to keep state employee jobs, while trying to
trim the fat off a hugely bloated budget.

Back in December 2008, the
governor signed Executive Order S-16-08, authorizing the mandatory unpaid
furloughs. The order states that “that effective February 1, 2009
through June 30, 2010, the Department of Personnel Administration shall
adopt a plan to implement a furlough of represented state employees
and supervisors for two days per month, regardless of funding source.”

The two days were to be the
first and third Friday of every month, or two days of unpaid vacation
time every month. Considering the alternative (losing a job entirely),
two days unpaid is a pretty good deal. February 1 came and went, as
did February 5. And the best part? The state didn’t erupt into disarray
and chaos.

According to reports, just
some of the state offices that will be expected to continuing shutting
down twice monthly include the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Agriculture and the
Department of Fish and Game. In the December order, it was also “requested”
that “other entities of State government not under [the governor’s]
direct executive authority, including the California Public Utilities
Commission, the University of California, the California State University,
California Community Colleges, the legislative branch (including the
Legislative Counsel Bureau), and judicial branch, implement similar
or other mitigation measures to achieve budget and cash savings for
the current and next fiscal year.”

Listen. Did you hear that?
The relative silence on the part of the workers taking furloughs. Perhaps
that is because so many others are losing their jobs and homes. Though
the IOUs have yet to start filing in, the California state government
is still going, furloughs and on, on what we must all hope is the path
to a healthier California. Now if only we could wrestle with those pesky
tax rates…