Relief for government, not taxpayers



A state appeals court this afternoon upheld Alameda Superior Court Judge Steven Brick’s halting of the governor’s furlough program for state employees. The state has a massive budget problem, yet apparently it’s just too awful to force the state’s padded and overpaid workforce to take an unpaid vacation day on Fridays.

This is from Brick’s ruling:

“Petitioners have also made a sufficient showing of great or irreparable harm to at least some of their members through the thirty plus declarations submitted with the applications. The verified petitions allege such harm to all of their members. Examples of the types of great or irreparable harm that have been submitted include being members put in desperate financial circumstances by additional furloughs because the previous furlough orders have depleted savings and retirement accounts already; homes have been lost or are at risk of being lost because of inability to keep current on mortgages; credit scores have declined because of inability to pay bills, rendering it difficult or impossible to obtain further credit; members have been rendered unable to afford food for an adequate diet for themselves and their families or to buy necessary medicines. The stress and emotional strain of further furlough deductions amounting to a 14-15% pay cut can never be fully measured or adequately compensated, even if Petitioners win on the merits and are awarded back pay after the long delay inherent in litigation of this type.”

That’s quite a legal standard. Public employees who earn more than the average member of the public and have far greater benefits and pensions than the public will perhaps suffer irreparable harm from having a slight cutback in their pay! This also is causing emotional stress.

Heaven help us. What about the emotional stress of average taxpayers, and private sector workers, who are going through tough times as businesses shed payrolls and shut down. Of course, that emotional stress doesn’t count. Never mind that the state continues to run a deficit. Something has to be done. A recent LAO report found that just in one agency, Caltrans, there’s little to do and many hundreds of unnecessary workers. In tough times, the private sector sheds its excess workforce. But the state’s coddled class of government workers doesn’t have to share the burden, at least not according to this judge.

An excellent editorial in the Tri-Valley News (East Bay) explains the wisdom of the governor’s furloughs:

“Because the Legislature has failed to pass a budget on time, the state is running out of money and needs to find ways to cut back on spending. Furloughs are a proper means of achieving that goal. The furlough program for general fund employees ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would save $80 million per month. His non-general fund employee furloughs would save another $30 million a month.

“The court did accept the fiscal realities facing California and that the state may have to issue warrants to pay its bills and to preserve its ability to borrow money. The court also acknowledged the appropriateness of using furloughs to help the state ease its fiscal problems.”

The judge’s ruling is ludicrous. Are we really supposed to believe that state employees are going to bed hungry at night because of the furloughs, as he argued? And the idea that they are tapping their retirement accounts to survive is bizarre given that state employees have defined benefit pension plans — many of them will soon be members of the $100,000 a year pension club.

So all the pain and suffering comes out of the hide of the private sector. What else is new?

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