The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 27, 2011
A,M. Reading: Pension numbers; business lobby's power; next pension change in RI

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifMentally ill flood ERs as states cut services
CHICAGO/NEW YORK -- On a recent shift at a Chicago emergency department, Dr. William Sullivan treated a newly homeless patient who was threatening to kill himself. "He had been homeless for about two weeks. He hadn't showered or eaten a lot. He asked if we had a meal tray," said Sullivan, a physician at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago and a past president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians. Sullivan said the man kept repeating that he wanted to kill himself. "It seemed almost as if he was interested in being admitted." Across the country, doctors like Sullivan are facing a spike in psychiatric emergencies - attempted suicide, severe depression, psychosis - as states slash mental health services and the country's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression takes its toll. (Reuters/

Viewpoints: Pensions need to be fixed, but not gutted
It's no secret problems plague California's public pension system. Serious problems. Critics like Joe Nation, operating nowadays from his Wall Street-supported think tank at Stanford University, want everyone to focus on pension funds' investment return assumptions as a big part of the problem. You could see that in his recent op-ed in The Bee, "Pension plans should assume realistic returns" (Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: Pension numbers need to be nailed
When California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer dropped by The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board last week to talk about public employee pensions, he said he didn't have "settled, crisp views" on pension reform. That statement surprised everyone in the room.After all, Lockyer is one of the state's chief financial officers, a man who's been sitting on the boards of the state's two biggest public pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the State Teachers' Retirement System, for five years now. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Brown must put price tag on pension reform
A few days back, when Gov. Jerry Brown talked about his trigger cuts and tax increases, he repeated his assertion that without credible pension reform passed this year by the Legislature's Democratic majority, voters won't be as likely to pass the tax increases he so desperately wants. Which raises the question: What is credible pension reform? (Sacramento Bee)

Plans to 'tax the rich' hold risks and rewards for California
Fueled by a backlash against the wealthy, Gov. Jerry Brown and left-leaning groups want voters to tax the rich next November. Californians have shown strong support for the idea in polls so far, despite the fact that they haven't passed a statewide tax hike since 2004. Brown said this month "the only tax that's overwhelmingly popular is the tax on wealthier people." (Sacramento Bee)

Business interests were top bill-killers in California's Capitol this year
Business interests were the top bill killers inside California's Capitol during Gov. Jerry Brown's first year back in office, as concerns about the state's weak economy cut into labor's newfound clout.Legislative data show business interests wielded strong influence despite a Capitol dominated by Democrats in the Legislature and the Governor's Office. Business lobbyists defeated bills that would have cut back various tax breaks, required employers to give workers unpaid bereavement leave and prolonged the foreclosure process. (Sacramento Bee/California Watch)

Californians to Watch: Campaign consultant Gale Kaufman makes labor's case to voters
Gov. Jerry Brown uses the Latin phrase bellum omnium contra omnes - war of all against all - to describe a potential shootout at the California ballot box.In the bellum expected next year, Gale Kaufman will be a general.The veteran Democratic strategist is best known as political adviser to the California Teachers Association, the labor powerhouse often at the center of major budget and campaign fights. (Sacramento Bee)

Ex-film office chief warns state workers
Iowa's former film chief has a message for state employees: Beware. You, too, could be convicted of misconduct in office. (Des Moine Register)

Arizona may pay more into workers' funds for retirement
State employees could get a bump in their paychecks next year if legislative leaders stick to a promise made on the eve of the Christmas holiday. (Arizona Republic)

State workers notebook: Retirement incentive program put on hold
Gov. John Kitzhaber's right-hand manager has thrown some cold water on the notion that Oregon might soon offer state employees some sort of early retirement incentive. (Statesman Journal)

RI lawmakers plan next round of pension overhaul
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Just weeks after overhauling the state's public pension system, Rhode Island lawmakers will consider giving cities and towns the power to revamp municipal pension plans. (AP/

Bill Cotterell: Another year to forget
They renamed Monroe Street "Rick Scott Way" for the governor's inaugural festivities, and that's how it's been for state employees all year. (Tallahassee Democrat)

State Employees' 2012 Wish List: More Revenue, Fewer Layoffs
OLYMPIA, Wash. - There are 8,500 fewer state employees in Washington than when the recession began - and in the State Parks Department, 160 more are scheduled to get pink slips to help close an $11 million budget gap in that agency. However, Tim Welch, director of public affairs for the Washington Federation of State Employees, says the new year will bring a different tone to the state legislature, as lawmakers get the message that another all-cuts budget may hurt more people than it helps.

Idaho judges' hefty pensions under fire
Debate over whether Idaho state judges should keep retirement benefits that are about twice as generous as those of other state workers has kept legislators and court officials at the negotiating table since January. (Idaho Statesman)

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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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