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DS CELLPHONE DETAIL.JPGFirst to suffer from this year's budget crisis?

Cell phones.

New Gov. Jerry Brown today ordered the collection and return of 48,000 state government-paid cell phones - half of those now in use - by June 1.

The Democratic governor estimated that cutting the use of cellphones by state employees in half will save the state $20 million a year.

"It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones," Brown said in a written statement.

The state currently pays for 96,000 cell phones, the governor added.

"Some state employees, including department and agency executives who are required to be in touch 24 hours a day and seven days a week, may need cell phones, but the current number of phones out there is astounding."

Brown's cell phone directive, his first executive order since taking office last week, directed state agency and department heads to retrieve the cell phones.

"In the face of a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, a cell phone may not seem like a big expense," Brown said. "But spending $20 million, and perhaps far more than that, on cell phones can't be justified.

"We're facing a budget crisis in California and I want to achieve all possible, reasonable savings. We have one of the best state workforces in America, and I am confident that all state employees will understand the need for this move and will cooperate."

After cutting the number of state-issued phones in half by June 1, the governor said he plans to continue reducing cell phone usage in months ahead.

"Because of contract obligations, it is possible that we may not be able eliminate all 48,000 cell phones by June 1, but it is also conceivable that we can do it earlier - and that is my hope," Brown said.

"Even with a 50 percent reduction, one-fifth of all state employees will still have cell phones," he said. "That still seems like too much and I want every department and agency to examine and justify all cell phone usage."

PHOTO CREDIT: 2002 Sacramento Bee Staff Photo.



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