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Doctors group suing state over medical board furloughs

October 14, 2009 | 12:19 pm

The association representing California's 35,000 doctors said today it is suing the state, arguing that the furlough of workers at the state medical board, which licenses and investigates physicians, is putting both doctors and the public in harm's way.

The California Medical Assn., in a lawsuit to be filed today in San Francisco Superior Court, also accuses Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state leaders of illegally transferring $6 million from the doctors' fee-funded Medical Board of California to aid the state budget.

The combination of the furloughs, which the medical association says total 5,100 lost work hours each month, and the raided funds have created an "unprecedented backlog of license application(s) and excessive delays in disciplinary investigations and enforcements," according to the lawsuit. The medical group seeks to reverse the furlough order and restore the board's funding.

Rachel Arrezola, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, said in a statement that "all areas of state government have been forced to cut back and do more with less."

"The governor has made the difficult but necessary decisions to cut spending and order furloughs," she said.

Meanwhile, state worker furloughs are under fire on another front. Pete Spencer, regional commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration, said today his office has determined that California will lose $87.3 million in the next federal fiscal year by furloughing workers whose jobs are to determine which Californians receive federal disability payments.

Spencer has tried for months to persuade Schwarzenegger to reverse the furlough of those workers, whose salaries are paid entirely by the federal government. A total of $67.7 million that would otherwise have gone to those receiving disability or Social Security payments will be lost, Spencer said.

"This is the most vulnerable in our population -- people with disabilities," Spencer said.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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