California's state workers brace for furloughs

State workers endured the latest tortuous turn in an off-again-on-again furlough saga that has left roughly 144,000 of them uncertain from week to week of their work schedules.

But the California Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to side with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and allow furloughs to start again Friday should be the last twist — at least until next month.

The court stopped a lower court's order that briefly kept Schwarzenegger from resuming the controversial furlough policy.

The ruling also adds another layer of drama to a Sept. 8 Supreme Court hearing and the subsequent decision of several key cases that likely will determine whether Schwarzenegger and the governors who follow him can impose unpaid time off on state employees.

"The result of the California Supreme Court ruling today means that the furloughs will continue until the court says otherwise," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said, adding that furloughs also will stop if the state budget is approved.

Otherwise, he said, "furloughs will continue as planned Friday the 20th, the 27th, and one additional floating furlough between now and the end of the month."

Schwarzenegger ended a similar policy in June, but with state lawmakers at an impasse over how to close a $19 billion budget deficit, the Republican governor issued an executive order July 28 restarting the policy as a way to save $136.7 million per month in payroll costs, about $75.5 million for the general fund.

One furlough day equals about 4.65 percent of an employee's monthly pay.

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