James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 01/07/2010 02:28:31 PM PST

When a northern California judge ruled that it was illegal for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to order furloughs for some state workers, many state workers based in San Bernardino thought they would be back at work today.

But they aren’t.

“I thought the furloughs would stop,” said Sylvester Hill, a right-of-way agent for Caltrans District 8, which covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “But then we got this e-mail … saying they’re keeping the furloughs. That’s about $600 out of my pocket every month. … Ends aren’t meeting because of that.”

The e-mail Hill and other state workers received says the most recent court decision doesn’t change anything and that furloughs will continue until the state’s highest court sorts things out.

In a move he said was aimed at saving money for the state’s nearly empty general fund, Schwarzenegger ordered all Caltrans employees, along with workers from the Department of Motor Vehicles and most other state departments, to take two unpaid days off per month starting last February. In July, Schwarzenegger ordered state workers to take a third day off per month.

John Tiller, also a Caltrans right-of-way agent in San Bernardino, said the furloughs are costing him $700 a month.

“It’s just under a 14 percent pay cut,” Tiller said.

While Tiller said he’s naturally frugal and has been able to make up for the pay cut by reining in his budget, he said the furloughs are hurting many of his co-workers.

“People that don’t have as much disposable income, it could be the difference between keeping their house and not,” he said.

Office workers like Tiller are required to take the first three Fridays of each month off. Caltrans workers who plow highways or maintain roadways take three days off per month, but not necessarily on Fridays.

The Service Employees International Union, local 1000, sued the state, saying the furloughs were illegal and did not save money for the general fund. Many agencies, including Caltrans, are paid for completely or in part by the federal government or by special state funds separate from the general fund.

On New Year’s Eve, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the furloughs for agencies paid for by special or federal funds were not legal and should stop.

The judge called Schwarzenegger’s orders were “an abuse of discretion” and said the court would issue an order for the state to “cease and desist the furlough of SEIU-represented employees.”

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