High Court Backs Gov.’s Furloughs

By Published On: October 8, 2010

Shortly after the governor and legislative leaders announced they reached a verbal agreement on a long-awaited 2010-11 budget, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state chief’s authority to order staff at the California Energy Commission, Air Resources Board, and other agencies to take three unpaid furlough days a month. The court dispute was over who held the authority to mandate furloughs and the source of that power. The October 4 ruling rejected the governor’s purported unilateral authority for his December 2008 executive order mandating furloughs. Instead, the court concluded the governor’s power during the fiscal emergency was based in last year’s budget deal. It “authorized the state to implement the reduction in employee compensation mandated by that section through the two-day-a-month unpaid furlough program that already had been implemented at the direction of the Governor,” Chief Justice Ron George stated in his 86-page ruling. Schwarzenegger stated, “I have had to make very difficult decisions in response to the world-wide economic collapse, including furloughs for state workers and line-item vetoes to balance our budget.” Several agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, were exempted from the unpaid leave mandate as was Energy Commission staff working on federally-funded projects. A number of state employee unions also were exempted because they separately reached deals with the governor.

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