The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 26, 2010
More about the Steinberg furlough exemption bill

We've been taking several calls and e-mails from folks wanting to know who exactly would be impacted by SBX8 29, which would exempt some state workers from furloughs.

The quick answer: We're not sure. A close reading of the bill written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, reveals that employees in positions paid with 5 percent or less of general fund money would be exempt.

This bill would exempt employees in positions funded at least 95% by sources other than the General Fund, employees of the Franchise Tax Board, and employees of the State Board of Equalization from furloughs implemented by any state agency, board, or commission.

That's different than exempting entire departments based on whether 5 percent or less of their overall budget comes general fund money, despite this analysis by Senate Appropriations:

SBx8 29 will exempt employees who work in a department or agency with a source of funding of at least 95% non-General Fund from the existing three day per month furlough.

Click the following link for more about who would be excluded from furloughs under SBX8 29.

So the partial list of departments we published on Monday is not, as we incorrectly characterized it then, a register of entire organizations that would be exempt. Instead, it's a list of departments with a large number of employees whose individual paychecks are paid 95 percent or more with money from sources other than the general fund, according to the State Controller's Office.

It's possible, for example, that an agency might get 15 percent of its budget money from the general fund, but individuals working their might receive 95 percent of their pay from federal money. SBX8 29 would exempt those employees from furlough.

Hypothetically, the Steinberg bill could impact two workers doing the same job in the same department differently if the general fund accounts for, say, 10 percent of one person's paycheck but only 4 percent of the other person's paycheck. The first employee would still be furloughed; the second would not.

Brad Williams, a consultant to the Senate Appropriations Committee said that there may be some cases like that, "but there probably aren't very many."

The Department of Finance said that it hasn't done a position-by-position funding analysis. Trost said that the SCO indicated that each department's HR team would have to figure it out.

The bill is scheduled to go to the Assembly floor for a vote on Monday. It could be designated an urgency measure requiring a two-thirds vote. If that happens, it would return briefly to the Senate for concurrence. Assuming it gets two-thirds in the upper chamber (it passed 30-6 the first time around), it would go to Schwarzenegger. If signed would take immediate effect.

The administration hasn't flatly rejected SBX8 29, but we'd be surprised if the governor signed it -- or a similar bill authored by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, AB 1215 -- unless it's part of some larger deal that includes budget concessions from the Democrats.

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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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