State Worker Furloughs Continue Despite Approval Of Budget

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 24, 2009

Lawmakers have finally approved a revised budget to wipe-out most of California’s 26-billion dollar deficit.   But, Governor Schwarzenegger is ordering state workers to continue taking three unpaid furlough days a month.    That means a lot of employees will see their paychecks slashed by nearly 15-percent over the next year. 

That’s got some state workers talking about early retirement or seeking employment elsewhere.
Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley reports...
Sherron Crawford sits in her comfortable condominium on Sacramento’s south side as she reflects back on her career. 
An accountant for the state’s mental health care system for eight years, Crawford says she’s been struggling to keep her checkbook balanced since the furloughs beganearlier this year...
“I’m pretty mad because l recently lost my car due to this and now I’m going to have to figure out how I’m going to get to work...”
Crawford lives with her 21-year-old son, who’s part-time job helps out with the bills. Still, Crawford says she’s having a tough time keeping up on her mortgage payments. So, she plans to quit her state job soon, rent out her home and start a new life in Virginia...
“I don’t want to stay in Sacramento. California. No, I don’t want to be anywhere near here...”
Crawford says she’s fed-up with what she calls “California’s dysfunctional state government.”    Barbara Alves has similar feelings. She’s also a single mom and a 16-year state employee.   Alves doesn’t want to reveal which agency she works for.   She says the furloughs are about more than money...
“It’s like being reprimanded. It’s like being told you are not doing a good job. When you are doing a good job and your boss tells you that you are doing a good job...But the big boss says you are not by taking your pay’s painful...”
For some state workers, early retirement seems to be a viable option. 
The state Department of Personnel Administration says applications for retirement have nearly doubled over last year at this time. But, it’s unclear if the increase is a result of the furloughs. 
Alves says she can’t retire yet. But, she doesn’t like the pay cut she got and says her only option left is to quit her job and leave the state...
"I certainly intend to get my income back up to the level of where it should be. Because the cost of living and the cost of purchasing a home outside of California is a lot more desirable in state’s to the east...”
The Schwarzenegger administration says the furloughs will last until next June, saving the state more than a billion dollars. The governor says he regrets making employees take unpaid days off, but he says in a financial crisis as bad as this one, everyone has to make a sacrifice. Back at her Sacramento home, Sherron Crawford says she’s angry with the governor, but she’s not giving up hope...
"Live each day and just worry about it as I go along. As long as I have food and a roof over my head, I’m content...”
 Steve Shadley, Capital Public Radio News.