Brown, other state officials refuse to comply with governor's furloughs

Legal News Line Jan. 13, 2009, 11:28am

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

Jerry Brown (D)

John Chiang (D)

Steve Poizner (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown and all five other statewide elected officials have sent letters to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that their offices would not comply with his executive order that will shut down state government two days a month.

The six Democratic leaders - Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Controller John Chiang, Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi - said Schwarzenegger's plan to save the state money by forcing all employees to take two unpaid days off a month would hurt their employees too much.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, instituted the unpaid furlough order as he and the Legislature continue an almost year-long deadlock over the state's growing fiscal crisis, one that the governor and other state officials say is fast approaching financial Armageddon.

State law does not require the offices of other statewide elected officials to comply with the order.

Schwarzenegger's order will shut down the state on the first and third Fridays of each month from February until June, saving the state an estimated $1.3 billion. The state's deficit has grown to more than $18 billion in recent months.

The only elected statewide official that is a Republican besides the governor, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, said his office will comply with the order.

Labor unions representing state workers are challenging the order in court.

The attorney general's office sent a statement to Legal Newsline saying the Department of Justice has long done its part to be a "cooperative partner" in solving the state's budget crisis, but said the issue of whether to comply with the executive order was being evaluated.

"In addition to operating with the deep current-year cuts, the Department of Justice has been helping to solve the budget problems by generating many millions of dollars for the General Fun in the legal work we do," the statement said.

The Department of Justice made the state more than $15 million in settlements in 2007 and nearly $90 million in 2008 that went to the General Fund.

Every decision regarding the budget has tremendous political implications. As many as four of the current seven statewide elected officials - Brown, Garamendi, O'Connell, and Poizner - have shown interested in running to replace Schwarzenegger in 2010 when he is termed out of office.

Though Poizner's spokesman said he believed that complying with the executive order is "not discretionary," Schwarzenegger's office has said in past reports that it could not force the other elected officials to comply.

But political experts across the state told Legal Newsline on Monday they expect the economy to dominate the general election for governor in 2010, perhaps shedding light into Poizner's decision to go against the Democratic leadership.

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