The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 15, 2011
A.M. Reading: Lawmakers and the Bay Bridge; changing pensions; Herman Cain and collective bargaining

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifLegislature to examine Caltrans testing of Bay Bridge
Caltrans fired two employees who were implicated in problems involving the tests of the Bay Bridge and other freeway structures throughout California, as reported in a Bee investigation Sunday. ... The leaders of the California Senate and Assembly committees on transportation said they would hold separate hearings later this month to examine the issues raised in The Bee's report. (The Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: LAO report lays out conundrum of pensions
In a recent report, the Legislative Analyst's Office generally gives Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point pension reform plan decent marks, calling it "a bold starting point for legislative deliberations." But the "buts" in the LAO's analysis are daunting, a sobering discussion of how difficult it will be - perhaps even impossible - to tame the retirement tiger that each year consumes a bigger and bigger chunk of depleted state and local budgets. (Sacramento Bee)

Public pensions are protected in Constitution
In Philadelphia, 224 years ago, some men tucked these words into the nation's new Constitution: "No state shall ... pass any ... law impairing the obligation of contracts..." Those words, squeezed into a very long sentence in Article 1, Section 10, listing powers denied the states, became known as the "contracts clause." And it is playing havoc with modern-day public pension reformers, including Gov. Jerry Brown. (Los Angeles Times)

UC Regents call off meeting; campuses set for protest
College campuses around California are scheduled to erupt in protest today through Thursday, as anger at tuition increases and sympathy with an embattled faculty union combine with the spirit of the ongoing Occupy movement. (Sacramento Bee)

Nevada County attempts to contain retirement costs
The proposed reforms to California's retirement system for state employees have sparked sharp political debates, grabbed headlines and raised questions from the public.
Those questions surround the long-term financial stability of the program in times of constricting public budgets and dwindling revenues. (The Union)

Marin's newest supervisor: fiscal health, pension reform are top issues
Marin's newest county supervisor says fiscal matters including pension reform are among the top issues facing local government. (Marin Independent Journal)

State's voters favor cuts to public worker pensions
From San Francisco to Modesto, California voters last week sent a strong message that they want to cut generous public employee pensions, whose soaring costs are devouring funds for cops, libraries and other services. The results cheered officials such as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who's seeking a March special election on his own controversial pension reform proposal, as well as advocates for a statewide measure aimed at slashing the costs of public retirement packages. (MediaNews Group / Woodland Daily Democrat)

Calpers Approves Policy on Corporate Political Giving
The California Public Employees' Retirement System approved new guidelines calling on companies in which the largest U.S. public pension invests to disclose their political contributions annually. (Bloomberg)

State of Oregon pays big bucks to contractors
PORTLAND -- Oregon may be in the middle of a budget crisis, but that hasn't stopped state officials from committing nearly $10 billion to outside contractors, an Oregonian investigation has found. (Albany Democrat Herald)

Herman Cain supports collective bargaining for public employees
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says he supports collective bargaining rights for public employees -- so long as negotiations don't break the bank. (Washington Post)

Rhode Island Struggles With Pension Overhaul
Rhode Island has dug its pension system into a big hole: It's $9 billion in the red. The nation's smallest state doesn't even have half of the money it needs to pay future retirees. Lawmakers are debating a bill to overhaul the entire system. If they do nothing, it's predicted that in seven years, 20 percent of the state budget will be mailed out in pension checks. (KUFH)

Editorial: Christie and judges / Scary demagoguery
Gov. Chris Christie is at his scariest when he is demagoguing about the state's judiciary.
Christie is a lawyer. He was the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey. No matter what he thinks about a Superior Court judge's lawsuit claiming that judges cannot be required to pay more for their pension and health benefits, the suit was filed. Somebody has to rule on it. (Press of Atlantic City)

Colorado government workers approve of jobs but bemoan lack of opportunity
They think the work they do is important and fulfilling, but they're less on keen management or their chances of moving up the career ladder. Maybe that describes a lot of people's jobs, but it was the overwhelming message that came back from a survey of Colorado state employees. (Denver Post)

Agreement reached on minimum state retirement age of 60
BOSTON -- House and Senate negotiators finalized a deal on Monday night to increase the minimum state retirement age to 60 as part of a broad overhaul of the state pension system that proponents say would save more than $5 billion over the next 30 years. (Statehouse News Service / Metrowest Daily News)

Public sector pensions: Civil servants vote to strike
Senior civil servants in Great Britain have voted to join industrial action to protest against changes to public sector pensions. The FDA union, which represents 18,000 senior staff, said 81% voted in favour of industrial action. The ballot had a turnout of 54% of members. (BBC)

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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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