The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 2, 2009
Blog back: Legalities, legislation and labor representation

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

Feb. 23 Date set for constitutional furlough lawsuit

Thumbnail image for Garamendi.jpg

Clarifying the constitutional and legal constraints and responsibilities of our elected officials is hardly a "moot point". If left unchallenged, future governors would assume far more power than they are rightfully due.

We certainly didn't mean to downplay the constitutional issue raised by the furlough order. We agree that the larger question is significant. That's why we qualified our comment: "In some ways, the lawsuit is a moot exercise, since Schwarzenegger reduced the constitutionals' personal services budgets by up to 10 percent."

We can't ignore the fact that even if the court rules against the governor, his line item budget reductions were a de facto furlough order -- or a virtual layoff mandate in the case of Lt. Governor John Garamendi's 21-person office.

Did DPA employees get furlough notices?

DPA observed the two "Furlough Fridays" last month. It also is on the list of departments with employees who have been designated "surplus."

Feb. 23 Republican gubernatorial candidates: Shrink state work force

Several blog users criticized former eBay CEO and gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman for her recent comments about trimming "headcount" in the state bureaucracy and that reducing the state workforce by 10 percent could be done without impact to services.

"Headcount", love that term, sounds like they have already chopped the heads off and now are counting what's laying arund (sic).
... Headcount? Nice way to dehumanize working families ...
So does a reporter ever question these statements? If she made this claim at a press conference did anyone challenge her to back it up? Don't you ask questions at a press conference?

We recounted Whitman's remarks from a Feb. 21 press conference taped by The Bee. After she said the state workforce could cut by 10 percent with no loss of service, Bee columnist and Capitol Bureau colleague Dan Walters asked her to expand on her budget cutting plans in greater detail. Whitman ignored the follow-up question.

The first thing people do when they become billionaires is forget what it's like to not be a billionaire. The second thing they do is run for Governor of California.

Feb. 24 Billwatch: Legislation seeks more spending accountability

This post drew out plenty of analysis of AB 400 , which would require departments each year to post on their Web sites how they've spent their money.

This is great and I think it can be done, but does not go far enough. Far too much can be lumped into "administration". It would be nice if there are more detailed categories included in the bill language such as executive staff compensation/benefits (salary, personal use of a state vehicle, free parking, etc.), contracting costs (number of people, pay, etc.) ...
This bill will only add more paperwork to the already failed system ...
... This seems like a project that will drain funding from services to facilitate a feel good program, and possibly something that was proposed to allow its author to claim he is a reformer and for gov't transparency ... I think all of this information already exists with the Dept. of Finance. It is called the State Budget.
And, as a state worker, I am all for it in principle as are, I'd imagine, most of the rank and file ... We'd love to see some accountability for the management decisions. Ah, but there's the rub. For the same ones who make the wasteful decisions are the ones who define the expenses, often in rather creative ways.

Our take: We love the concept, but the numbers would need to be understandable, searchable and easily analyzed by things such as vendor, good or service. The information also would need to sync with budget projections so that users can compare estimated expenses to monies actually spent. And the Web sites would have to dump the bureaucratic jargon to make the information comprehensible to the general public.

Feb. 25 Union request to stop Arizona layoffs denied; public workers vs. 'Joe and Sally Taxpayer'

So who exactly does Susan Mangiero consult for? You don't say. I don't live or work in Sacramento so her name is not familiar to me. This is important because her political and/or business biases do matter in what she writes about public pensions.

You can read about Mangiero's Connecticut-based company, Pension Governance Inc., by clicking here. Access her online bio here.

Feb. 25 Unions good for economy

This post spurred vigorous debate. Four small snippets of the back-and-forth:

Unions were a very important part of labor negotiations years ago. Now they hardly represent the will of their members. This contract they negotiated late is nonsense. Our current unions need to be fired and replaced ...
Some folks seem to think that unions WERE once a good idea and garnered some protections for workers but are now somehow obsolete. To them, I ask: just because the police have secured your neighborhood so there's been no crime for a year, do you think you don't need them anymore?
I'm a state attorney and member of the attorney's union. My union has done nothing for me ... Too often I have seen my union come to the aid of insubordinate and unproductive workers when management has the temerity to ask them to take on the same workload as everyone else.
By the time the state work force became unionized, I was in the management/supervisory rank ... I generally found that unions represented their members in a fair and impartial manner. I always found that I was able to take necessary disciplinary action against employees by diligently documenting performance or lack thereof ... Generally, the inability to address problem employees came about when supervisors and managers failed to do their job and instead acted in an arbitrary and subjective manner. Unions should not be blamed when this happens.

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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