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State Worker Furloughs Set To End Today

— State worker furloughs are set to end after today. But it’s still not clear whether this is actually the end of the three unpaid days off each month. We checked in with state workers and the businesses that rely on them to find out how they’re dealing with the uncertainty.

Luis Barrera is the manager at Alejandro’s Taqueria near the Capitol in Sacramento. Many of his customers are state workers. He says after more than a year of slow Fridays, he’s ready for a change.

“We’re happy, I am happy,” said Barrera.

But a spokesman for the governor says depending on the state’s budget mess, Schwarzenegger could extend the furloughs. Barrera says he knows what that would mean for him.

“Less business,” said Barrera.“Again. It’s affecting everybody, starting with the state workers, it’s like a chain, there’s not enough money, and they’re spending money. We’re affected. Everybody is affected.”

Ed Benelli, an engineer with the Department of Toxic Substances Control, says the 15 percent pay cut that came with the furloughs last year has been rough.

“There’ve been people in our office that, believe it or not, had to go on food stamps and things like that,” Benelli sad.

Benelli says he fully expects the furloughs to continue, given the state’s $19 billion budget hole. And Bernie Schultz, who works in IT for the California Emergency Management Agency, is skeptical too. She says 14 months of furloughs haven’t been easy.

“It’s meant a lot of trouble. I mean, basically I have been trying to modify my loan for my home,” Benelli said. “And basically cut back on every kind of fun thing that you can possibly do, because of course I want to keep my home.”

The Governor has said the furloughs are necessary to save the state money – and that everyone should share in the pain of the budget crisis.

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman says no decision has been made, but he notes that the Governor has the ability to re-implement furloughs at any time, based on the state’s budget crisis and cash needs. The governor’s newest budget plan also includes pay cuts, one unpaid day off a month and increased pension contributions for state workers.

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