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Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order Against State Worker Furloughs

Audio

Aired 8/10/10

State workers in California may not be furloughed after all. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order against the governor's decision to reinstitute the three unpaid days off a month. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

State workers in California may not be furloughed after all. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order against the governor's decision to reinstitute the three unpaid days off a month. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN: Are you surprised by the judge's ruling, Leo?

LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): I'm not terribly surprised by it, but I am surprised by the fact that nobody is looking at what the alternatives are, which is massive layoffs in state government. The fact is that the governor's back is being pressed against a wall on this thing. He's trying to save money and trying to, in his words, spread the pain across the population of the state employment base, and without the furloughs to be able to work with, the only remaining alternative may be starting to actually fire people.

BROWN: And the state controller says he's going to run out of money by the end of this month.

MCELROY: That's right. That's right. And so here we are, once again with a delayed budget, and attempting to find ways to survive around it, and another door has just been slammed, and now the governor's going to go ahead and appeal that. And, where he winds up with that appeal is another question, but in the meantime, if you're the governor, you've got to be looking at alternatives, and the most painful alternative of all was actually starting to fire people from the state employee base.

BROWN: Yeah, it looks like more inaction than action these days at the state capitol. California voters probably won't be weighing in on a bond measure as well to improve the state's water system for a few years, why do you think the legislature voted last night to remove that $11 billion water bond.

MCELROY: I think it's an overturning of the old Mark Twain saying. Mark Twain said that in California whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over. And I think this time, whether they were drinking or not, the legislators really decided that this is not the year they want to do the fighting over water. The economic uncertainty makes the passage of a water bond really problematic in California. Our political land mass is kind of loaded with earthquake faults, I'm afraid, and there's a lot of fear that this year. A water bond measure might not do well at all.

BROWN: Well, I referred to inaction -- a judge also overturned Proposition 8 last week. Why are all these things not happening in Sacramento?

MCELROY: Well, this really has thrown everybody's plans into a whirlpool if you will. There was a lot of battle in the gay community, and sympathizers with them, over whether to go to the ballot with another measure attempting to overturn Prop. 8 on their own, and the feeling that it was something that would either be able to happen in the near future, or that maybe they shouldn't be pushing it, they should wait a couple years, and then do it as society's views change. Now you've got this thrown in the mix, and now you've got the Prop. 8 backers starting to look at, well, is there a way we could craft a measure that would not be interpreted by the courts as trampling on an inalienable right, and would still accomplish what they want to accomplish, which is ban the recognition of gay marriage. This is going to be a thorny one, and it's really not going to be decided by anybody until the U.S. Supreme Court winds up looking at it. And there it's going to be a highly problematic, probably a 5-4 vote, and Justice Anthony Kennedy probably holds the whole ball game in the palm of his hand.

BROWN: Well, let's get back to the budget for a moment here as we wrap up our conversation, Leo. The governor has suggested in the past he may not even sign off on a budget, if his issues on the pensions aren't covered or addressed. But then on Friday he said Republicans and Democrats are only a few billion dollars -- as in four or so -- away from striking a deal on this $19-billion deficit. What gives?

MCELROY: Well, it's really interesting that you've got the governor doing the only noisemaking coming out of this thing, because the Republicans and Democrats are being unusually quiet and not airing their differences with the usual degree of noise and thunder and excitement. Apparently they really are working in quiet and trying to achieve something, but the question is, if you're the governor, you suddenly get a budget earlier than a lot of people expected, to be really honest. Are you going to hold out and say no, I'm going to refuse to sign it and -- until I get my other issues resolved, or are you just going to heave a great sign, wipe the perspiration off your head, and put your signature on the line.

BROWN: Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

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