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Furloughs And Shutdowns and Budgets, Oh My!

by Susannah Kopecky, published

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 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...

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