The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 22, 2008
Budget impasse: Why the emphasis on state workers?

Some users of this blog noticed that we didn't say much during the dramatic events last week that started Wednesday with the Democrats' budget maneuvering and ended Friday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lighting the fuse for state worker furloughs and layoffs.

We were busy with other important stories. We also knew that our colleagues at The Bee's Capitol Bureau would lend a hand. They did, and we appreciate it.

(By the way, if you're not regularly checking in with Capitol Alert, you're missing out on tons of news about elected state workers and the inside scoop on Sacramento politics. It's worth your time.)

Speaking of the Cap Bureau, last week it published a breakdown of reasons the governor rejected the Democrat's budget proposal. Look it over and we'll ask a couple of questions for your consideration on the other side:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would have signed the tax increases and cuts the Democrats sent him Thursday if the package had included deeper cuts and more of what he believes will stimulate the state's economy, including:

• A broader exemption from the state's environmental laws for highway projects. The Democratic-passed exemption plan did not include key projects and replaced the current environmental review with one the administration believes is "equally burdensome."

• More flexibility to use private contractors on public projects. The Legislature's proposal, the administration said, kowtows to public employee unions by placing "unrealistic criteria" on selection of projects that are eligible for public-private partnerships.

• Approval of his $782 million cut to furlough state employees one day a month and eliminate two state holidays. The Democratic plan called for a $657 million cut to employee compensation but allowed unions to negotiate the details.

• A plan to keep people in their homes, including a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, with exemptions for lenders who show they have an "aggressive" loan modification program.

• Deeper cuts to monthly grants for people on welfare and low-income elderly, blind and disabled people. The Democratic cuts to CalWORKS and SSI-SSP programs were less than a third of the $2.4 billion Schwarzenegger has proposed.

Two of the five items -- the furlough/holiday reduction and more PPP flexibility -- have an impact on state jobs and have drawn heavy fire from unions. But in the grand scheme of solving the immediate budget crisis, they have relatively little financial impact..

What message is Schwarzenegger sending by pressing these two issues? What is the governor's aim in including them on this no-go list?

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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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