The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 2, 2010
Assembly bills on state worker pay and furloughs up for vote

The Assembly has until Friday to get floor votes on three bills with potential impact on state employees. We hear from our colleague Jim Sanders, who covers the Assembly, that lawmakers are trying to get their business done by Thursday so that they can get out of town.

Here's the legislation in play:

Bill: AB 1699, sponsored by Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, would ensure that state employees continue being paid in the absence of an on-time budget.

Will it pass? Highly unlikely. The Assembly passed an earlier version of this bill but it stalled in the Senate. Look for the same thing to happen this time around.

The caveat: This might pass if Schwarzenegger agrees to support the measure in exchange for union concessions at the bargaining table -- and can get legislators in his own party to go along.

Bill: AB 1765, sponsored by Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, prohibits a state employees from being furloughed when the state's unemployment rate reaches 8.5 percent or higher, if the employee is in a position funded at least 95 percent by the federal funds, performs services that combat the state's recession or works for the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board or the Employment Development Department.

Will it pass? If recent history is an indicator, legislators in both houses will probably get behind this idea again. The measure is similar to SBX8 29, a measure the Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg authored earlier this year. The bill passed both houses by two-thirds majorities, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

The caveat: Some legislators may have voted for the Steinberg bill knowing that special session rules ensured that they wouldn't be asked to vote on a veto override. There's no such procedural escape hatch with this bill.

Bill: AB 2008, sponsored by Juan Arambula, I-Fresno, would prohibit a governor from furloughing state employees at the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization.

Will it pass? Unlikely. The Steinberg bill also specified FTB and BOE employees would be exempt from furloughs since both are revenue-collecting agencies. FTB officials last year noted that the cost of state revenues lost to furloughs exceeds the policy's payroll savings. And the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, which Steinberg established as an independent legislative research arm, reported that FTB furloughs cost the state $7 for every $1 saved. (The administration discredited the report as politically motivated but hasn't offered a statistical rebuttal.) Still, the governor vetoed the bill.

The caveat: Maybe Republicans can be convinced that splitting off the revenue-collecting employees from furloughs makes sound business sense. But Schwarzenegger is on the record as opposing exemptions, and there's no reason to believe that he's changed his mind. Also, signing off on this bill might undercut his "labor parity" legal argument that furloughs must be applied evenly to be fair.

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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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