Legislators returned to the Capitol on Monday after a month-long hiatus from committee hearings and legislative activity, normally known as summer recess.

This year, legislators did not officially break for summer recess but instead legislative leaders allowed lawmakers to work from their districts and be on call to return to Sacramento if a budget deal was struck.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a new executive order requiring state employees to take three unpaid days off per month until lawmakers pass a 2010-11 budget. The governor’s office explained that the furloughs were necessary in order to conserve cash.

Controller John Chiang recently announced that unless lawmakers enacted a budget soon, the state’s cash would go into the red by October. The controller also stated that he will start issuing IOUs in August or September to conserve funds as long as possible.

The new furlough executive order exempts employees who work in several departments, including those related to state revenue, essential services and public safety:  Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, Employment Development Department, State Compensation Insurance Fund, California Housing Finance Authority, California Earthquake Authority, California Highway Patrol and Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.

In addition, exemptions were extended to all six employee unions that recently reached tentative labor agreements with the governor’s administration. Those agreements contain concessions, including monthly furlough days and higher out-of-pocket employee pension contributions.

The Legislature has yet to ratify the agreements but the governor’s office expects that to happen soon.