The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 29, 2008
State worker furloughs: The easy way out?

J.J. Jelincic, former California State Employees Association president, had an opinion piece in Sunday's Bee that criticizes the governor's proposal to furlough state workers.

He also faults the newspaper for supporting furloughs, as it did again on Sunday in this editorial.

Some key paragraphs from the Jelincic piece:

... Rather than trying to address the budget crisis by finding and cutting out state programs that are inefficient and costly, the governor seeks to cut the quality of all state services by reducing their human resources by at least 10 percent through furloughs and layoffs.

It is ironic that The Bee supports this when it knows firsthand that when you reduce resources you reduce the quality of the output ...

... My parents' generation invested in the future, in schools, parks, libraries, hospitals, universities, highways and massive water projects. That was their legacy. I'm ashamed that my generation's highest priority has been to build prisons and to not raise taxes.

... Let's have a real debate. What will our legacy be? What are we willing to pay for and how? Let's adequately support the programs we want and need. And let's be honest and kill programs that don't work or that we don't value.

A few points from the Bee editorial:

... In the face of a $42 billion two-year deficit, Democrats have yet to publicly acknowledge that a reduction in state payroll must be part of the solution.

... Are furloughs a painless solution? Hardly. A 5 percent payroll cut (10 percent if the state were to order furloughs two days a month) would hurt many state workers, especially those on the lower rung of the pay scale.

Democrats and some union leaders we've contacted say furloughs are a ham-handed approach. Some claim they'd prefer a more surgical strategy of identifying programs that are outdated or of lesser priority, and cutting those.

... Fine. If Democrats and their union handlers can agree on a way to achieve more than $700 million in state payroll savings without furloughs, we'd like to see it. But we doubt they'll produce such a plan ...

Both pieces are worth a full read.

Jelincic's call for a "real debate" to figure out what government can and cannot do echoes what SEIU President Yvonne Walker told The State Worker a few weeks ago.

Now carry the idea forward: Can you envision entire programs, departments or agencies being dismantled? Which ones? Would the unions sign off on any budget cuts that eliminate jobs? What if your job was one cut by an agreement between the Schwarzenegger administration, the legislature and your union?

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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


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