The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 10, 2011
A.M. Reading: Money and initiatives; governors, unions play chicken; Delaware changes spousal health coverage

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCorporations, wealthy dominate initiative process
California's initiative process was intended to give people a way to arm themselves against corruption, whether it was from lawmakers in the Capitol or the special interests that controlled them. But in the 100 years since former Gov. Hiram Johnson rallied against the corrupt politics that permeated state government, corporations and wealthy individuals have adapted to California's initiative process - and in some years dominate it - by qualifying ballot measures that benefit them. (Associated Press / Sacramento Bee)

Opinion: David Low: California public employees support some pension reform strategies
Sacramento is slated to begin a timely and deliberate recrafting of California's public pension system. Both the governor and the Legislature plan to launch a thorough review of the system -- with meaningful hearings and in-depth exploration of fair and workable fixes -- which will be a positive step toward ensuring the system's stability and long-term affordability. (San Jose Mercury News)

Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates
Turmoil in Europe, the sluggish economy and low interest rates are intensifying pressure on public pension-fund systems to reduce the annual-performance assumptions they use to determine contributions from taxpayers and employees. Some lawmakers and pension officials are pushing to abandon the roughly 8% annual-return assumption set by many public-employee funds, saying the rate is unrealistically high given upheaval in markets around the world and the preceding financial crisis. (Wall Street Journal)

Labor scuffles continue in New York and Connecticut
The Democratic governors of New York and Connecticut, Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy, have spent much of their first terms in office engaged in high-stakes games of chicken with state workers unions over the contracts that govern the terms and conditions of their employment. Contracts are now in place for a majority of workers in those states, but not without unexpected turns. (

Colorado pays big for unused leave, sick time
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- State statistics show Colorado paid nearly $60 million to departing workers for unused leave and sick time over the past three years and could owe $367 million more to current employees. (Associate Press / Canadian Business)

Governor talks year 2 priorities: Haley to replicate controversial Ga. job program
Gov. Nikki Haley's priorities for her second year in office include replicating a controversial Georgia jobs program to retrain South Carolina workers, taking another stab at reforming the state's tax code and requiring state employees to work longer -- 30 years instead of 28 -- to receive full retirement benefits. (The Post and Courier)

Health insurance change hits state workers' retired spouses
Husbands and wives of some Delaware state employees currently covered under their spouses' state health insurance plans could lose their coverage because of a policy change announced last week as part of an effort to reduce state health care costs. (The News Journal)

State workers from Michigan join Occupy Wall Street protest in New York
NEW YORK - Ray Holman is no stranger to protests, having participated in dozens of pro-union rallies this year, mostly at Michigan's Capitol building. So it's not surprising the Haslett man felt he was among friends Saturday evening after he arrived in New York City, walked several blocks and found himself in a crowd of several thousands demonstrating as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. (Lansing State Journal)

Opinion: Tour of state hospital shows positive change
Seven members of a Marion County Grand Jury, including me, recently had the opportunity to tour the updated Oregon State Hospital. As a group, we observed a modern facility above and beyond our expectations headed by a superintendent and program director who were both professional and honest. (Statesman Journal)

Editorial: A win for government openness ... now let's have more
On Sunday, the Register opinion pages reported the majority of Iowa lawmakers receive free health insurance. Many are enrolled in plans covering their entire families. Health, dental, life and long-term disability insurance cost taxpayers as much as $18,450 per lawmaker, per year. (Des Moines Register)

Opinion: In the public interest: Oregon PERS records deserve look
Those of us who work at newspapers have a passion for open records. This often brings us into conflict with governments, school districts and other entities funded by public tax dollars. Our view is simple: If there is public money involved, the press and public should have the ability to scrutinize those records and report on how our tax dollars are being spent. (The Oregonian)

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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


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