Schwarzenegger to send 20,000 layoff warnings Tuesday

Sacramento BeeFebruary 16, 2009 

With budget negotiations still hung up in the California Senate, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to send 20,000 layoff warnings to state workers Tuesday morning.

Schwarzenegger will instruct his Department of Personnel Administration to give agencies lists of people affected -- those with the least seniority among the approximately 100,000 state workers employed at General Fund units.

"In the absence of a budget, the governor has the responsibility to realize savings any way he can," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

The governor has not specified how many layoffs, if any, he would pursue. Each 2,000 layoffs would save an estimated $150 million, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Schwarzenegger on Friday said he would hold off sending the notices to workers because it appeared a budget deal was imminent. But that tentative agreement went nowhere when Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, refused to vote Saturday for the budget.

The Governor's Office early last week threatened to send the notices last Friday if lawmakers reached a budget deal by then. McLear said at the time that layoffs were necessary because the state had lost savings opportunities through half of February without a new budget plan in place. The latest budget deal would have made up those savings with a short-term loan to be paid back with federal stimulus funds rather than layoffs.

Last week's threat appeared to be at least partially motivated by a desire to pressure lawmakers to reach a deal, particularly Democrats who are tight with state employee unions. But now the problem is finding one more Republican vote in the state Senate. If the governor's threat is meant to apply pressure this time, it might be directed at Cox, considering that the state employs roughly 74,000 state workers in Sacramento County. Cox represents many of the suburbs northeast of Sacramento.

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