Politics & Government

Schwarzenegger plays high-stakes game with furloughs

His order to resume furloughs next month essentially doubled-down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bet that he has the authority to impose unpaid days off on state workers.

It's also a high-stakes gamble that the policy will wring concessions from state labor unions and squeeze the Legislature, now seven weeks late on passing a budget, to craft a deal that includes significant reductions to employee pensions.

Will it work?

So far it hasn't appeared to alter the posture of Democrats, including Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.

"It's shocking that every single one of the governor's budget moves deliberately hurts people," said Perez's deputy chief of staff Shannon Murphy, recounting Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts and his stalled minimum-wage order. "It would be a refreshing change if for once he could make a decision that helps the economy rather than hurts it."

Schwarzenegger's side says his moves have been a matter of math, law or prompted by legislative inaction.

The state is drowning in red ink, the administration has said, and voters rejected higher taxes at the ballot box, making cuts necessary — including cuts to employee compensation.

"Furloughs are the last thing we can do by ourselves to save money," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "Speaker Perez has failed to even engage with the other leaders in trying to solve our deficit. The state is facing IOUs this month. Until the Legislature gets back from vacation and produces a budget, we have a responsibility to avert the looming cash crisis."

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