'Furlough Fridays' are back for California state workers

Furloughs are back.

Less a month after ending unpaid days off for more than 200,000 state workers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is bringing back a scaled-down version of the policy that will take effect on Sunday.

The governor made the decision this week after Controller John Chiang said that until lawmakers come up with a budget, he'll start issuing IOUs in August or September to conserve funds as long as possible. The state's cash could run out by October, the controller estimated.

"We have a fiscal crisis," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said Wednesday morning as he explained the new furlough order. "We're doing what we have to do to conserve cash."

Bruce Blanning, head of the 11,000-member Professional Engineers in California Government, said that the move is really designed to squeeze unions like his that haven't cut concessionary contract deals with the administration.

"It's more misguided pressure from the governor on those who won't agree with his program," Blanning said.

Like the furlough policy that ended June 30, the new plan laid out in Executive Order S-12-10 requires employees to take three unpaid days off per month. There's no termination date: Furloughs will end when lawmakers pass a 2010-11 budget. That could be weeks or months after the Legislature reconvenes next week.

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