The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 4, 2011
A.M. Reading: Government a drag on Sacramento; prisoner sues for porn; N.J. labor legacy

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifGovernment paychecks, pensions now a dead weight to Sacramento economy
Through the decades, as flashier private sector jobs came and went, solid government paychecks and pensions formed the steady foundation of Sacramento's economy. Now that foundation has become a dead weight. (Sacramento Bee)

Skelton: Prickly allies for Jerry Brown
The heat has cooled between Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders of the Legislature. But for a while, there seemed to be a pending explosion. Brown quickly vetoed the Legislature's gimmicky state budget -- no California governor apparently had ever dared that -- and the leaders angrily countered that he was ineffective and confused. All's calm again, however, now that the Democrats have produced a more honest spending plan and Brown has signed it, praising them for "a hell of a job." But what does the public flare-up between a governor and legislative leaders of his own party say about Brown's leadership skills? (Los Angeles Times)

Ginger Rutland: Woe be to workers who blow whistles at CalSTRS
In 2006, Scott Thompson, a pension program analyst for the California State Teachers' Retirement System, received an irate phone call from a woman who claimed to be 91-year-old pensioner Acevia Craft. The caller was angry because CalSTRS had reduced her pension payment. The pension agency had done so at the behest of the IRS because Craft had not paid her taxes the previous year. Suspicious because the caller did not sound like a 91-year-old, Thompson alerted authorities. It turned out Acevia Craft had died in April 2005 and her children had buried her in her backyard so that they could continue fraudulently collecting their mother's CalSTRS pension. ... But less than a year ago, security guards escorted him from CalSTRS' gleaming new headquarters building in West Sacramento. The letter Thompson's boss handed him states that he was being placed on an "ordered leave of absence," during which time he would not be allowed on the premises. Ten weeks later, Thompson was dismissed from state service, a dismissal he is now fighting. (Sacramento Bee)

Prisoner to State: Give Me Porn
It's not quite waterboarding, but one Michigan inmate claims he's been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment: No porn. (NBC Chicago)

A Safety Valve for Inmates, the Arts, Fades in California
NORCO, Calif. -- Fifteen men darted across the room, their faces slathered in greasepaint, reciting lines from "Tartuffe." The stage, such as it was, was a low-ceilinged recreation room, and the cast was a troupe of felons who had just stepped in from the dusty yard of the California Rehabilitation Center. (New York Times)

As We See It: Trigger squeezes Californians
It just gets worse. Letting a few days pass to let the dust settle on the budget approved by legislators last week and then signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't cleared the air. If anything, the budget just raises more questions and will require significant changes. (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Early retirement may mean lower pension checks for state employees
HELENA - Some Montana public employees who are taking early retirement this year may face a costly reduction in their pension checks if their departures are ill-timed. (Missoulian)

Wichita parole officers spared from cuts
For a time this past spring, law enforcement officials feared that state budget cuts could result in up to 20 parole officers in the Wichita regional office being laid off.
These are the state workers who directly supervise people coming out of prison. A Wichita deputy police chief, Tom Stolz, had said that if the cuts occurred, "this has a potential to be a disaster" for public safety.
But late in the legislative session, lawmakers found a way to put $1.4 million back into the corrections budget -- specifically to prevent parole officer cuts. (Wichita Eagle)

Unbending approach won't lead to contract
Contract talks for state workers have slammed into a logjam regarding health care benefits. (Dennis Thompson)

Open-records supporters criticize new pension law
A new law touted by state lawmakers as a ray of sunshine into the financial goings-on at dozens of ailing Texas municipal pension funds is drawing criticism from some open-government advocates. (Fortworth Star-Telegram)

Conn. unions fear political clout has suffered
HARTFORD -- State employee unions in Connecticut might not just lose 6,500 jobs after recently rejecting a labor savings and concessions agreement. They're also risking their considerable clout with the General Assembly. (AP / ctpost.com)

So much for 'shared sacrifice'
The short-lived honeymoon between Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney that resulted in the badly needed public employee health care and pension reforms ended abruptly Thursday with Christie's veto of the Democrats' budget plan. (Asbury Park Press)

Who will history be kind to?
When the history of the 214th Legislature is written, the narrative will be dominated by three events. (nj.com)

Wyoming first in federal dollars per capita
The federal budget provides about 30 percent of state revenue, making it the largest single source of funds for many states. But the feds are more generous with some states than with others, according to an analysis by Federal Funds Information for States. (Stateline.org)

For links to more news, views and video, check out The State Worker's Individurls page. To see our vast archive of searchable A.M. Reading headlines, go to Publish2.

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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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