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Report: Furloughs Increase Calif’s Long-Term Costs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The state employee furloughs started under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have greatly increased the cash liabilities owed by California taxpayers when those workers leave government service, according to a report released Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Payments to employees for accrued leave time are now at historic levels, reaching nearly $270 million in the last fiscal year.

The furloughs began in February 2009 as a way to help close ongoing state budget deficits, and they saved the state about $5 billion over five years. But nearly $1 billion now must be paid to employees in accrued leave time when they quit or retire.

The report says many workers simply used furloughs for time off instead of their normal vacation days, increasing the state's liabilities. California's long-term liability to pay employee leave balances is now $3.9 billion annually, or 27 percent of all salary costs.

Each day of unpaid leave amounted to a pay cut of about 5 percent. That cost the average state worker about $21,000 over the last five years, but also increased their overall time off by about 50 percent.

The furloughs were continued under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown but are scheduled to end this July. Spokesmen for Brown and the state Department of Finance referred inquiries about the analyst's report to the California Department of Human Resources, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The average state employee's annual leave balance increased by 16 days during the five years the furloughs have been imposed. The state will have to pay employees for that time unless they are forced to take their vacation days.

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