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State Supreme Court to weigh governor's power to order worker furloughs

September 8, 2010 |  7:44 am

Furloughs The California Supreme Court will weigh legal challenges to state furloughs and budget cuts in a hearing Wednesday that will determine a governor’s power to order state workers to take unpaid days off and cut services from the state budget during a fiscal crisis.

In deciding three furlough cases, the court will rule on whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was legally entitled to force unpaid furloughs on more than 200,000 state employees beginning in February 2009.

State employees continue to be furloughed three days a month. The furloughs, intended to save millions of dollars, have infuriated labor unions and reduced services for the public.

The governor had said he had little recourse given the state’s bleak financial picture. More than 30 lawsuits challenging furloughs have been filed, with mixed rulings in the lower courts.

In addition to deciding whether a governor can order furloughs, the court may determine the extent of that authority for various employee groups and whether any workers must be reimbursed for lost wages.

In a related case, the court on Wednesday also will hear arguments on whether the governor overstepped his authority when he used a line-item veto to cut about $500 million in social services in the 2009-10 budget. An appeals court upheld the cuts.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: A sign indicates closures at a California DMV office due to state furloughs. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times