The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 3, 2012
A.M. Reading: Lawsuit against former CalPERS official can proceed; prisoner escapes; NJ leave cashouts

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifRuling clears way for fraud suit against former CalPERS official
Reporting from Sacramento -- A federal judge has approved a plan to liquidate the estate of Alfred J.R. Villalobos, former board member of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the state's biggest public pension fund. (Los Angeles Times)

PERS allowed to recoup $156 million
The Oregon Supreme Court Friday upheld two key decisions regarding Public Employees Retirement System "window retirees," effectively ending years of pension litigation. The court stood by its earlier decision in the Robinson case, which upheld PERS' right to recoup an estimated $156 million in overpayments from 28,042 people who retired from public service between April 2000 and April 2004. (Statesman Journal)

Open Forum: California pension system not in crisis
Despite those who are all-too-willing to play Chicken Little, the sky is not falling on the California pension system. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Prison inmate escapes using firetruck
OTAY MESA -- A 51-year-old inmate who used a yellow prison firetruck to escape Sunday from Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa remains at large, officials said Monday. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

California Legislature returns to face more budget woes, new election rules
Happy new year, lawmakers?Don't bet on it.The California Legislature will reconvene Wednesday amid a flood of red ink, a long history of partisan bickering, and a coming statewide election using newly drawn districts and a new way of choosing the top two candidates for legislative seats. Key issues ranging from public employee pension changes to whether the state should regulate health-care insurance rates remain from last year, but political insecurity and fiscal instability are likely to make lawmakers reluctant to cast controversial votes, analysts say. (Sacramento Bee)

N.J. Democrats, Republicans should reach compromise on public employees sick pay
Despite the post-Christmas posturing over sick time payouts for public employees, the two sides in this fight aren't that far apart and should be able to hammer out a deal quickly. At issue: Public employee contracts that allow longtime state and municipal workers, at retirement, to trade in a career's worth of unused sick days for cash -- sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Star-Ledger)

Another Viewpoint: Little state comes up big on pensions
While many love Little Rhody for its quirkiness, few would recommend the state as a practical model for the other 49. But Time magazine has done just that, showcasing the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the official name) as an example to the rest - and, to the shock of locals wholly unused to civic praise, a good example, too. "The Little State That Could" was Time's headline. ... It did have the good fortune to elect as state treasurer a savvy local woman who, as Time put it, "never got the memo about dodging tough issues." Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, led the charge in very serious pension reform that confounded all the usual expectations of failure. (Nashua Telegraph)

Leftovers fill California lawmakers' agenda for 2012
When state lawmakers convene again Jan. 4, their plates will be filled with leftovers. Their agenda is expected to be dominated by issues that have been unresolved in the last few years: state budget problems, pension reform, a new water supply system and legalizing poker on the Internet. (Los Angeles Times)

State faces midyear cuts, more budget strife ahead
Students pepper-sprayed while demonstrating against tuition hikes, teachers arrested after protesting school spending cuts and lawsuits piling up over cuts to an array of state services for seniors, the poor and disabled. Those represented California's fiscal crisis in 2011 and foreshadow even more budget strife in the year ahead, especially with a statewide vote on tax increases headed to the November ballot. ... Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga said the governor and Democrats have not cut government bureaucracies deeply enough. Republicans say salaries of six figures and higher for state workers have compounded the budget problems. (AP / San Francisco Examiner)

State worker retirements on the rise
SANTA FE, N.M.- More New Mexico state workers are packing it in. As of December, the Public Employees Retirement Association and the Educational Retirement Board says a total of 4,145 public-sector employees had retired across New Mexico in 2011. (AP / Newswest 9)

State agencies' data show a surge in 'voluntary separations'
Oregon's state agencies experienced in 2011 their highest turnover rate in five years, according to figures released by the Department of Administrative Services. (Statesman Journal)

Lawmakers Look To Next Week's Session Start
WHEELING - The regular session of the West Virginia Legislature starts next week, and at least two local delegates question whether lawmakers should work to create and pass additional laws and regulations for the state. ... Local lawmakers believe the issue of "other post-employment benefits" for state employees will take over as the main focus of the Legislature, which last month passed legislation regulating the Marcellus Shale industry. (The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register)

As Legislative session approaches, controversy looms
The New Mexico state legislature will convene for its 30 day session on January 17 - and for a change lawmakers don't have their hatchets sharpened up for another round of budget cutting. The state is expected to have about $250 million dollars in new money for next fiscal year, the first increase in four recession-strangled years. ... But the state is under intense pressure to increase spending on Medicaid, and to restore cuts in funding for pension plans for state employees and public school employees. (KOB)

Lawyer: Conn. state workers should repay food aid
HARTFORD, Conn.-- A lawyer for 17 Connecticut state employees suspected of fraudulently receiving special federal food stamps after Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast said Monday he is suggesting to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration that workers who didn't intend to break the law should be allowed to repay the money they received. Malloy said later he has no plans to follow such a suggestion and the investigation will continue. (Hartford Courant)

State workers begin paying 10% of their medical bill, part of budget repair bill
Wisconsin state workers and their families started paying more for their medical care starting yesterday. (WTAQ)

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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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