The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 10, 2009
Blog back: More furlough fallout

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

Note: we usually reserve blog backs for Fridays, but the volume of comments to our last State Worker column and recent blog posts has prompted us to post a rare mid-week BB to keep up. In the interest of space and brevity, we're exercising editorial license to excerpt comments.

Feb. 5 Should constitutional officers' employees be exempt from furlough?

Hey Ortiz - You are asking the wrong question. Why should state workers be the only group to take a 10% pay cut (tax)?? ...

Our question was rooted in the developing news of the day. The question of furlough fairness has been thoroughly discussed by this blog's users. And as regular visitors of this blog know well, private sector workers are quick to point out that many folks outside of state government have taken a 100 percent pay cut through layoffs.

We saw no reason to raise again what has become a well-worn debate.

Meanwhile, users were split over whether which is more important, spreading the furlough pain to everyone or maintaining the independence of statewide officers:

The principle of constitutional officer independence, as a part of the California Constitution, is as important as the Constitution itself. I personally think that the furlough is a poor decision altogether. The Governor, a constitutional officer, ordering another constitutional officer to furlough their employees is equivalent to one manager telling another manager how to manage their staff -- inappropriate.
I work for a special fund agency and we are furloughed ... I don't think this is appropriate. These constitutional officers lack the nuts to tell their staff to stay home. Its about sharing the pain. Its about showing the public we, state employees, don't always have our hands out looking for more ... If independence brings the ability for these clowns to spend money the State doesn't have, they need to be appointed ...
The autonomy of the Constitutional Officers is paramount...otherwise they are nothing more than appointees in function...there is a reason they are individually elected...this is nothing more than a POWER PLAY by the Governor to try and submit the State, citizens, employees and constitutionally elected officials to his will...he will most likely lose in the end...after more taxpayer dollars are wasted on his high cost contract attorneys and the courts...
Have those independently elected constitutional officers affirmatively directed their employees to show up tomorrow and promised them they will get paid for that day's work? ... I can't find any indication of that in any of the Bee's coverage.

We were working on that angle when we posted the Feb. 5 blog question and evolving online story. In case you missed the full story published the following day, here's the link.

... I suspect the State may ultimately face some tough lawsuits when, for instance, a secretary at a non-constitutional agency takes a mandatory 10% pay cut, while a secretary with an identical spb job description at a constitutional agency does not, since there are all kinds of laws and regulations about equal pay for equal work in the state civil service system.

Thoughtful remarks that look ahead and take a wider view of the issue than the user's personal experience. Good post.

Feb. 6 The State Worker: Furloughs' unseen cost -- in morale

Does Jon Ortiz realize that many state workers are not paid out of the general fund. Our not being paid will not save the state a nickle (sic), and in many cases will cost the state revenue. My guess is he is like arnold (sic), and his only concern is to kick sand in our faces ...

We realize that state employees are paid from various pots of money, and we've questioned the administration about why those workers are subject to furlough. The answer, according to DPA officials is that money paying for agencies and departments outside the General Fund is available for borrowing and therefore those arms of the government should be cutting costs as well, including by furlough.

The charge that our "only concern is to kick sand" in state workers' faces implies that we find pleasure in the misery of others. We don't.

Feb. 6 Governor's office: 'What Californians are saying about furloughs'

WOW Sacramento Bee.... You might as well just come out and say it... you're bending right over for the Governor. This is terrible! No wonder I don't order the Bee. What a sorry excuse for a news source!

As we often point out, our blog posts of e-mail, press releases, editorials, news stories and the like should not be interpreted as supporting the views expressed in them.

Nice cherry picking of comments. I have this yellow snow that is actually dissolved gold to sell if you are interested ...

Feb. 5 Furlough Roundup

So Jon,hold Lockyer's spokesman's feet to the fire. "We saved money"?!? Where are the specifics?

We've asked Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar for specifics. He told us that the data is available but needs to be organized to make it understandable to a general readership. When we receive it, we'll post it. We're also asking the other constitutional officers for their savings information.

Feb. 6 Judge denies CDF Firefighters' request to stop furloughs

Aren't they CalFIRE now???

"CDF Firefighters" is named in the court filing.

Feb. 6 The State Worker: Furloughs' unseen cost -- in morale

In retrospect, the furloughs might be the tipping point for state government. Productivity is tanking because of plummeting morale. Decisions are not made because managers are in crisis mode, trying to save positions. Meanwhile, the elected and appointed political overclass keeps mandating new workload. Under the furloughs, every dollar saved will translate into many, many more dollars lost.

We think that the furloughs represent a huge shift in power that will change the state workplace, possibly forever. We'll discuss this in greater detail in our Thursday State Worker column.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on 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


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