The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 20, 2008
Blog back: Language, 'lies,' and per diem

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 14 A Controller's Office employee speaks out

George Orwell, in his great essay "Politics and the English Language" cites the use of euphemisms as a sign of intellectual dishonesty. In the same spirit. Governor Schwarzenegger, the Sacramento Bee and others who inflict harm on State Workers are using the word "Furlough", instead of the more accurate "Wage Reduction".

As we noted in this recent post, language does indeed frame perception. However in this case, after much thought, we'll stick with "furlough" because the wage decrease directly corresponds to reduced working hours. A "wage reduction" in our mind is the same as a pay cut, which would be paying less for the same number of hours on the job.

Whether furloughs save money is another matter. Cutting the number of hours that the state is open for business doesn't mean that there's less business. The work still has to be done. It's possible that furloughed employees perform less efficiently because of added stress to do the same amount of work in less time.

If anyone has seen a reputable study about furlough impacts on workplace efficiency, please send the info along to us.


Nov. 17 How to save $5 billion without a furlough

My review of the list didn't reveal a single suggestion that doesn't take away state employee current pay, pension benefits or other benefits. State employees have no obligation to assume a larger burden of the budget deficit. Lying to suggest that they should, is shameful. Shame on the Bee for promoting and featuring it.

Our aim was to report the The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility list and put it up for discussion. It was not an endorsement. We invite specific criticisms to counter "lies."


Nov. 19 UPDATE: Former Consumer Affairs employee sentenced for data download

Question: Have the 5500 state employees whose SSN's were stolen been notified?
Since the Mexican Mafia apparently has access to that info can identify theft, consumer fraud, etc be far behind?

We asked Andrew McIntosh, the Bee reporter who has spearheaded the Dumbrique coverage. Here's what he told us:

The breach happened late - after 5 p.m - on Friday, June 6. Consumer Affairs says it notified its staff and retirees of the breach at the end of the day on Monday, June 9. It did not disclose the seriousness of the breach and the link between Dumbrique and her husband, the jailed member of the Mexican mafia.

The Bee disclosed the fear of ID theft and the link to the Mexican mafia on Thursday, July 10 - almost a month after Consumer Affairs let its people know about the problem.


Nov. 20 Forbes article speculates that CalPERS could be the 'next shoe'

In a state that is always in the red, how exactly is CalPERS guaranteed. No stock market investment is ever guaranteed is it? Could you explain?

CalPERS can require that state and local employers increase contributions to make up any pension funding gaps. For the last few years CalPERS' return on investments was so strong that it didn't require any contribution from employers (and by extension taxpayers).

Given its heavy investment losses, it now appears likely that CalPERS will have to require employers to kick in more money in 2010. The increased amount, if any, depends on the value of the funds' assets on June 30, 2009.

Click here to read our Oct. 23 story in The Bee for details about the tie between CalPERS investment returns and public employer contributions.


Nov. 20 Column extra: Legislators who didn't take pay raise, per diem hike

We've been made aware of two other legislators who declined the October per diem increase.

To view a copy of Democratic Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino's declination letter, click here.

For Republican Assemblyman Bill Emmerson's letter, click on this link.

We appreciate the heads up from folks working for both lawmakers. Anyone else that we've missed?


On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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