Furloughed Calif. State Worker On Income Loss
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
John mentioned that when Californians go to the DMV, it may be closed. That's because state workers have to take furlough days three a month. They're called Furlough Fridays. That, plus an earlier pay cut means state workers will lose about 15 percent of their income.
Renee Chiea is one of the state workers furloughed today. She works for the Department of Managed Health Care. She spent the day at home with her children and husband. And that's because her husband also works for the state and was furloughed today. She says the furloughs are starting to hurt their bottom line.
Ms. RENEE CHIEA (Department of Managed Health Care): It's very difficult for us to try and maintain all of our bills and pay our mortgage with the state of these furloughs. And we understand that Schwarzenegger has stated that he will go as high as four furlough days. So there's a little bit of fear that we're going to have to sustain another five percent each, decrease in our income.
BRAND: So, can you give us numbers, how much money you're losing with these furloughs?
Ms. CHIEA: Well, prior to the furloughs, I made a little bit over 60,000 a year. My husband made close to 40. Household income, we probably went from around 100,000 to about 75,000 a year. And if we get a fourth furlough, it's going to be worse.
BRAND: So, what is the atmosphere like at work? What's the morale when you heard that this part of the budget was to extend the Furlough Fridays, possibly till next June? What was the reaction?
Ms. CHIEA: The first furlough, when they came out with a 10 percent cut, I think people really kind of took it on the jaw and just went, okay, it's hard times, you know, we understand that we're going to have to sacrifice. People are being laid off private sector left and right, and getting pay cuts as well.
But with this third furlough, it has really changed. Definitely the morale has gone down. People are really frustrated. And I think even a harder part was originally the furloughs were forced two Fridays a month. Then it went to where we could bank those, so to speak. You know, work a full-time schedule for the month and roll them over. And then they went back to the forced three furloughs and that really made it difficult on a lot of people.
One of the things I was thinking about doing is banking our furloughs and taking my kids out on the breaks, so that we could just use our leave time when they're on their breaks and not have to pay the full-time daycare and just have them in after-school care. But now I don't even have that option.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: So what are you thinking you're going to do?
Ms. CHIEA: At this point, I'm still in the process with trying to get a mortgage modification. I don't know how much they're going to work with us or not. If they don't work with us and there is no modification that can be done, we're probably going to get foreclosed on. So…
BRAND: So, yeah, you're having some hard times.
Ms. CHIEA: Yeah.
BRAND: Renee, who do you blame in all of this? Do you blame the governor? Do you blame the legislature?
Ms. CHIEA: I blame everybody.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. CHIEA: I think we're all in this together. And I think that Schwarzenegger and the legislature also really need to become more cooperative and start finding ways out of this and start doing the hard decisions of whatever cuts or tax raises need to happen.
I think state workers are really used to a lot of the white noise of use being threatened with layoffs or cuts or things like that, a lot of times it doesn't happen because they balance the budget and then everything's fine.
We're definitely being used as a pawn and, you know, I think that Schwarzenegger is really entrenching with his side of things, to try and force cooperation. And he's willing to sacrifice that pawn. But the problem is he's going to end up with a Pyrrhic victory as everyone moves out of the state, there's no economy left and no state worker is able maintain their households. If, you know, at the end game, you have nothing left, what have you won?
BRAND: That's Renee Chiea. She works for the state of California along with her husband. They're spending their third Furlough Friday at home today in Woodland, California, that's near Sacramento. Mandatory furloughs for state workers may last until June of next year.