The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 25, 2011
State worker contract bill clears key Senate committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee this morning voted 6-3 to approve a measure that adopts six state employee union contracts. It now goes to the Senate floor for approval.

Republicans on the panel opposed the measure. If all the Senate Democrats authorize Senate Bill 151 and at least two Republicans join them, the measure will go to the Assembly. The bill covers contracts for about 60,000 state employees, including correctional officers, park rangers, drug agents, highway construction inspectors and scientists.

Sens. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemmet), Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) and Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) all voted against the bill. Supporters: Sens. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Ted Lieu (D-Torrence), Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), Curren Price (D-Inglewood) and Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The committee discussion this morning was subdued, but hinted at a bigger fight that looms when the measure goes to a floor vote.

Kehoe, who chairs the committee, complimented Gov. Jerry Brown and the Department of Personnel Administration for bringing in the final six state employee bargaining units that were without contracts. Certainty in the state workforce is important, she said. "I applaud the governor for getting this done early in his term."

Democrats asked a few questions about savings in the contracts that are immediate savings for the state's bottom line, including higher pension contributions from employees. Steinberg also asked whether the administration had any figures on the long-term savings from the contracts. Finance Chief Deputy Director Michael Cohen said that no numbers were available, but that it is a "huge number over time. The real savings are realized as new workers come on board. (The savings) are easily in the hundreds of millions of dollars over time."

But Walters wanted to know how soon the pension changes would have a serious impact on the the state budget. "Isn't the savings really going to be in 25 or 30 years from now?"

"In order to get full savings, you need the entire workforce to turnover," Cohen said. "Any of these changes would take decades" to reach full impact.

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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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