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Judge temporarily bars California from imposing new furloughs

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Judge cites hardships on workers in issuing his decision
  • The governor's office says it will appeal the ruling
  • California is battling a $19.1 billion budget shortfall

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- An Alameda County judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday preventing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from imposing unpaid furlough days on state workers.

The governor's office said it would appeal the ruling.

In his decision, Judge Steven Brick sided with the unions who filed suit to block the furlough days from taking effect.

He said the workers would face "irreparable harm" from the loss of income, and that the balance of hardships "tips in favor" of the workers.

"The previous furlough orders have depleted savings and retirement accounts already; homes have been lost or are at risk of being lost because of inability to keep current on mortgages; credit scores have declined because of inability to pay bills, rendering it difficult or impossible to obtain further credit; members have been rendered unable to afford food for an adequate diet for themselves and their families or to buy necessary medicines," Brick wrote.

He scheduled a September 13 hearing on a preliminary injunction.

For the past year and a half, 200,000 workers have been forced to take three unpaid furlough days a month -- losing as much as 14 percent of their pay.

Schwarzenegger's executive order declared a state of emergency over a $19.1 billion budget shortfall that has left the state without a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The furloughs will continue until a budget is passed and the state's finance department ensures California that has enough cash on hand for the year.

"Our cash situation leaves me no choice but to once again furlough state workers until the legislature produces a budget I can sign," Schwarzenegger said in a statement when he ordered the latest round of furloughs.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has tussled with the Democrat-led legislature over the best way to close the deficit.

Republican lawmakers have proposed severe cuts to state social services such as welfare and Medicare, instead of hiking taxes. Democrats oppose the program cuts and instead want tax increases on industries like oil production.