The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 18, 2009
Whitman repeats her 10 percent solution for the state bureaucracy

Thumbnail image for Whitman Amezcua1.jpgCalifornia Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was on CNN's "Situation Room" today and repeated points made recently in Long Beach, in Roseville and at her party's Sacramento convention: She believes 30,000 to 40,000 state workers should be laid off. Further, she criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for failing to be tough enough with his budget cuts -- including the 5,000 layoffs he announced last week.

From the show:

I know from my experience that almost any organization you can lay off 10 percent to the bureaucracy and maybe it's easier on the people and would not be a hardship on the state. And while I feel terrible for those individuals who would lose their job, it is in the long-term health of the state of California to get the government to a place where the people of California can actually afford the government that they deserve.

You can read the CNN Whitman interview transcript by clicking here and see the interview by clicking this link.

While it's clear that California's political and economic winds are blowing against state worker jobs, we wondered how Whitman would make all those cuts. If history is any indication, trimming the state bureaucracy isn't like laying off workers at a dot com firm (Whitman made millions of dollars as CEO of eBay).

We've talked to the Whitman campaign, Schwarzenegger's office and the Legislative Analyst's Office about state workforce cuts. What emerged from those interviews were distinctly different views of what it would take to cut 30,000 to 40,000 state employees

A few things to note, based on conversations we've had with Schwarzenegger's office and the Whitman campaign:

Whitman's cut proposal extends to the entire 345,000-person state workforce, including area's outside the governor's direct control (the UC and CSU systems, for example) and departments under the governor's control that get little or no general fund money (EDD, CHP). So cutting those workers wouldn't help the general fund, which is where the state is short on cash.

Making deep cuts to the state workforce takes time because it involves complex policy decisions about the role and scope of government. Those decisions usually have a political component (the governor has to convince the Legislature or state employee unions to go along it) and then the policy leading to the cuts must be executed (such as deciding which prisoners should be released on parole).

As we'll show you tomorrow, the Whitman team believes that her experience as the head of a large corporation gives her the experience and skills to downsize state government. But is running California akin to running eBay? How far does business acumen go when it comes to fixing the state?

IMAGE: Meg Whitman / sacbee.com, Hector Amezcua


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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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