The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 30, 2012
Read the report: Preventable diseases cost CalPERS millions of dollars

A new study says that CalPERS could have saved between $18 million and $54 million in 2008 health care costs if more of the fund's members warded off common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension with diet and exercise.

Talk show host and health advocate Dr. Mehmet Oz, SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker, Controller John Chiang and Treasurer Bill Lockyer will unveil the Urban Institute study and a new pilot program to promote wellness at a 1:30 p.m. press event at the California Museum.

Researchers looked at the health records of nearly 556,000 state employees and their dependents who are covered by one of nine CalPERS health plans.

Click here for a short item in today's Bee with more details about the study, which is posted below.

Potential Savings Through Prevention of Avoidable Chronic Illness Among CalPERS State Active Members

April 30, 2012
Public pensions assets rebounded in 2010

From Dan Walters at our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

California's state and local government pension funds saw a 12.4 percent increase in their assets during the 2010 fiscal year, according to a new Census Bureau report, markedly higher than the national pension fund increase.

Click here for the rest of Dan's post. A spreadsheet with some of the pension data is posted below:

April 30, 2012
AM Reading: California court battle; CalPERS fires back; strike two for FL drug testing

AM Reading:

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Storified by Jon Ortiz · Mon, Apr 30 2012 09:43:59

Dan Walters: California judges' war heading into a new phaseBy Dan Walters A professional-quality video clip that popped up on YouTube depicts physical deficiencies in California courtrooms and mak...
Three staff members injured during incident at Napa State HospitalA Napa State Hospital patient was arrested at about 12:20 am Friday in connection with two separate incidents that occurred Thursday, acc...
Maine's GOP governor calls state workers 'corrupt'In response, the governor said state government is too big and too costly and that the state workforce is part of the problem. LePage tol...

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April 27, 2012
Firefighters, SEIU Local 1000 give $500,000 to fight ballot measure

California Professional Firefighters and SEIU Local 1000 recently donated a combined half-million dollars to the group combating a Nov. 6 ballot measure aimed at curbing unions' political power and banning direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

The California Professional Firefighters Independent Expenditures PAC donated $250,000 on April 11 and Local 1000 kicked in $252,762 a couple days later, according to a report filed this week with the state.

Local 1000 and the state council with which it's affiliated have given nearly $1.1 million since last summer. Professional Firefighters, between its independent expenditure committee and its ballot issues committee, has donated $800,000 over the past nine months. Contributions to defeat the measure now total $5.7 million.

Supporters raised about $2.9 million so far.

The proposal would stop unions and businesses from donating money directly to political candidates, although both groups could continue spending freely on independent expenditure campaigns.

Labor groups would have a harder time raising money for those independent campaigns, however, because the measure also eliminates payroll-deducted contributions, unions' primary means of raising money. Corporations couldn't use payroll deductions either, but they raise the bulk of their campaign money from checks written by top executives and shareholders.

April 27, 2012
Dr. Oz to promote state worker health in Sacramento next week

120427 Oz _Baer_2010.JPGTV host Dr. Mehmet Oz is among the speakers scheduled for a Monday press conference to unveil a new report on state workers' health and to promote a pilot state workplace wellness program.

Oz, whose self-titled show is among the most popular in day-time talk, will join SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Controller John Chiang and others. They'll talk about the health study commissioned by Chiang's office, which looks at state active members in CalPERS, and explain the launch of the wellness initiative.

The news conference is one of several Sacramento appearances for Oz next week. It starts at 1:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the California Museum at 1020 O St. in Sacramento. The state is hosting the news conference in partnership with The California Endowment and HealthCorps, the nonprofit organization founded by Oz and his wife, Lisa Oz, to fight childhood obesity.

PHOTO: Dr. Mehmet Oz / Sacramento Bee 2010 file, Brian Baer

April 27, 2012
Ceremony honors fallen Caltrans workers

From Fresno's KSEE News: Caltrans employees killed in the line of duty were honored in a special ceremony Thursday morning.

(Caltrans has scheduled a similar ceremony at the State Capitol for May 9.)

April 26, 2012
Update: Pension issue alive despite bill derailment, Smyth says

Editor's note, 4:50 p.m.: This post has been updated with news about Senate pension legislation.

Despite a procedural move this morning to push aside two GOP pension reform bills, one of the suspended measures' co-authors says the issue is far from dead.

In a telephone interview after the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee hearing, Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said that informal conversations with lawmakers lead him to believe that there's general agreement about many points of the plan that he and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway introduced in February.

"It seems like there are two sticking points: the hybrid plan and changing the retirement age," Smyth said.

As expected, the committee put a hold on several public pension bills this morning, including the two measures by Conway and Smyth that co-opted Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point plan that would, among other things, fundamentally change benefits for future workers.

Public Employees Committee chairman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, several days ago told lawmakers that pension reform bills would be put on hold, in deference to a special committee formed to consider the issue. Furutani co-chairs the Joint Legislative Conference Committee On Pension Reform, which started hearings last fall and is expected to propose legislation during this session.

Two mirroring measures in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, Senate Bill 1176 and Senate Constitutional Amendment 18, both authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, have not been voted on. The deadline for moving fiscal bills out of policy committees is Friday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in February that the Republicans were "clever" to claim Brown's plan as their own, but the GOP measures were "cut-and-paste" bills without analyses. The Senate's ranking Democrat has said several times that he expects a pension reform package to pass this year.

When asked it he thought that would happen, Smyth said, "From the conversations I've had, everyone seems serious," but that Republicans would "remain engaged" and keep Democrats accountable.

Conway blasted Democrats on the Public Employees committee for sending Assembly Bill 2224 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 (both by Conway and Smyth) to interim study, effectively killing them.

"It is appalling that Democrats would prefer to stick their heads in the sand rather than enact bipartisan reforms," Conway said in a press release.

April 26, 2012
California shaves computer system cost estimate by $1 billion

Officials overseeing California's troubled financial computer system project say it will cost nearly $1 billion less than earlier estimated, according to a new Bureau of State Audits report.

The latest projections by the the Financial Information System for California, or FI$CAL, figure that the massive hardware and software makeover will cost $616.8 million, down from a 2007 estimate of $1.6 billion over 12 years.

April 26, 2012
AM Reading: Labor and crime victims unite; FL drug testing ruled unconstitutional; CO state worker preference bill dies
April 26, 2012
California retirement savings bill advances in the Senate

120426 Steinberg and de Leon.JPGLegislation to create a state retirement account program for private sector workers in California cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1234, authored by Democratic Sen. Kevin de León, cleared the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations on a 4-1 vote. In favor: Sens. Ted Lieu, D-Torrence; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Republican Sen. Mark Wyland, of Solana Beach, cast the lone no vote. Sens. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, didn't vote.

The measure creates a state-run "California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust" that would set up professionally-managed retirement savings accounts for private-sector workers.

Opponents -- insurers, a variety of trade industries and the California Chamber of Commerce, among others -- contend it establishes a needless new bureaucracy, creates uncertainty for employers and damages businesses that already sell retirement savings vehicles.

Critics have also charged that Democrats offered up the measure to counter pressure they've felt to change public employee pensions. Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg rejected that notion and has said on numerous occasions that Democrats, who hold a legislative majority, will enact substantive pension reform legislation this year.

SB 1234 now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

California Democrats push pension plan for nongovernment workers

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento (left), and Sen. Kevin de Léon, D-Los Angeles, walk to an event where they unveiled legislation on Feb. 23 to create a state-run retirement system for private sector workers in California. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

April 25, 2012
California state worker pay cap proposal killed in committee

A measure that would have limited state workers' pay to what the governor earns died in the Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday, with six votes in favor and seven against.

Tuesday morning's hearing on Senate Bill 1368 became an opportunity for lawmakers to tee off on CalPERS and CalSTRS executives as well as top-level administrators and faculty at the UC and CSU systems who make more -- some many times more -- that the $174,000 currently earned by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill's author and committee member, Sen. Joel Andersen, R-Alpine, juxtaposed news that two former CalPERS officials are being sued by the federal government with bonuses has paid to executives and concluded the money rewarded "a dismal performance."

Anderson also tied his bill to the current debate over whether the state should increase taxes.

"I cannot look at my constituents and say you're not doing your fair share," Anderson said, "while we continue to attract the best, the brightest -- and the greediest."

David Wolfe of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the committee that high-end state wages are "unfair" and "ridiculous" and that "populist anger ... is intense."

But labor unions opposed the measure, as did the university systems and CalSTRS. Lobbyist Doug Chiapetta said that the unions he represents, AFSCME and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, "applaud the concept -- times are tough" but that they had concerns about overtime provisions of the bill and what it meant for collective bargaining.

A UC representative said the bill was "a rigid statutory scheme." A CSU spokewoman said the system was working on a "new process" for determining executive compensation.

No votes came from Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon, Ellen Corbett, Kevin de León, Noreen Evans, Ed Hernandez, Alex Padilla and Rod Wright.

Supporters included Anderson and Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella, Mimi Walters and Mark Wyland as well as Democrat Leland Yee.

April 24, 2012
Is a California public pension overhaul dying this year?

A key legislative committee isn't going to act on a package of public pension reforms proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and adopted by Republicans in their own bills.

Assembly pension committee chairman Warren Furutani said in a letter that surfaced today that GOP measures that mirror Brown's 12-point reform plan won't be heard in his committee. Furutani also co-chairs a special conference committee that is working on public pension reform, and bills could surface there.

"I believe it is appropriate this year to limit the bills considered this year in the policy committees to those that are not within the purview of the Conference Committee," Furutani said in an April 18 letter to Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita.

Smythe and his fellow Republicans co-opted Brown's pension plan earlier this year, putting it, word-for-word, into legislation. Brown, who linked pension reform with a successful appeal to voters for tax increases, has said little about pension reform in the last few months. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has said that the Legislature will pass pension reform this year.

Furutani pension bill letter to Smythe

April 24, 2012
Analyst says some state worker contracts 'modestly' increase costs

The Legislative Analyst's Office figures that four union contracts that Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to extend for one year will "maintain or modestly increase the state's costs for employee compensation."

The nonpartisan LAO looked at so-called "rollover agreements" with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Bargaining Unit 16) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Unit 19) and concluded that they don't cost the state more than the deals that expire in July.

The state's cost for employees covered by the International Union of Operating Engineers (Unit 12) and the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (Unit 18), however, will grow by an estimated 9.5 percent due to increased health benefit costs. Those contracts have clauses requiring the state to cover increases in health coverage.

The contracts together cover roughly 24,000 state workers, including equipment operators, social service professionals, psychiatric technicians and doctors.

MOU Fiscal Analysis: Bargaining Units 12, 16, 18, and 19

April 24, 2012
AM Reading: Government sues former CalPERS officials; Corrections' overhaul; KS state hospital crisis
April 23, 2012
UPDATED: California's prison plan changes who makes staffing decisions

Editor's note, April 24, 10:35 a.m.: This post, orginally published on Monday, now includes a comment from the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association.

A plan rolled out today to overhaul the state's penal system includes a big change to how prisons are staffed.

"The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Court Oversight and Improve the Prison System" lays out a plan to centralize and standardize staffing instead of leaving such decisions to each prison as they are now.

The shift is part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's effort to slash its costs by $1 billion and eliminate 5,500 positions in 2012-13.

JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the 29,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents roughly 29,000 prison officers, said the union is evaluating the proposal.

"The total implications of CDCR's staffing plan is yet to be determined but we will continue to thoroughly evaluate the proposal," Baker said in an e-mail. "If the plan is successful at ensuring safe operations inside the institution and our potential concerns are addressed, there may be an opportunity for collaboration with the state in the endeavor."

Until now, a prison's management decided how to allocate staff based on how many inmates a facility housed. California's budget crises forced difficult and disparate decisions.

Some prisons cut correctional officers and other custody staff, which "led to situations at some institutions where general population inmates are no longer let out of their cells due to insufficient custody personnel being available to maintain safe and secure prisons," the CDCR report says.

Others preserved custody jobs and cut support staff. But many of those jobs are vital to keeping facilities up and running and aren't tied to how many inmates a prison is holding: "Further population-driven reductions from plant operations," CDCR says, "would leave the prisons with insufficient staff to maintain the physical plant of the facility."

Now, with the prison population shrinking, the state has a chance to standardize staffing and gain efficiencies from it. A "team of correctional experts" developed the standards for most of the prisons that will be running in 2013-14 when the new staffing plan is supposed to take hold, the report says. Some older institutions still need to be evaluated.

California State Prison, Sacramento, for example, will shed about 66 custody positions and add about 26 health care jobs. In sum, the facility will lose about 29 positions in 2012-13.

Californians to Watch: Matthew Cate directs prison downsizing
The Future of California Corrections (executive summary)
The Future of California Corrections (full report)
Institution Profiles (details the staffing changes at each facility)
Court-ordered targets for California inmate population reduction (includes weekly census)

April 23, 2012
California state insurance agency cancels layoff plans

Thumbnail image for 100727 rowe.JPGHundreds of state jobs that were on the chopping block have been spared, according to an e-mail sent to State Compensation Insurance Fund employees this morning.

State Fund President and CEO Tom Rowe's message to staff said that 1,300 workers have left since last fall's announcement that the quasi-public agency would shed between 1,500 and 1,800 jobs.

"The number of positions that remain in the restructure plan is now small enough that we have decided to cancel the layoff," Rowe wrote in the e-mail that went out this morning.

April 22, 2012
AM Reading: CalPERS responds to computer criticism; Wisconsin gives bonuses; public retiree health costs rise
April 20, 2012
California state worker retirements up for second straight month

The percentage of California state workers who filed to draw their first pension checks rose 61 percent in March compared with one year ago, according to new CalPERS' data, marking the second month in a row that more of them retired.

A total of 612 state workers retired in March. Still, the total number entering retirement in the first quarter of 2012 is down more than 8 percent compared with the first three months of 2011, owing to a big decline in January retirements this year.

CalPERS counts new retirement data from mid-month to mid-month. Owing to the rules that govern cost-of-living adjustments, more state workers retire at the end of the year than at any other time. Those retirements show up in the January figures.

By contrast, fewer state workers elect to retire in March than in any other month. February is the second-slowest month for inaugural pensioners. Relatively small shifts in retirement patterns during those months can produce big swings in the year-over-year percentages.

A total 1,704 state and local government and school employees with a CalPERS pension headed for the exits in March, up 41 percent from a year earlier. Since January, 8,605 CalPERS members have retired, down 9 percent compared with the same period in 2011.

Click tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet above to see charts and more data about CalPERS systemwide retirements.

April 20, 2012
Hearings scheduled for Jerry Brown's California government reorganization plan

The Little Hoover Commission has scheduled three days of hearings to consider Gov. Jerry Brown's government overhaul proposal starting Monday, 9 a.m. in the Employment Development Department Auditorium at 722 Capitol Mall.

The nonpartisan commission has until the end of this month to deliver its recommendations about the government reorganization plan to the Legislature. The plan goes into effect unless a majority in either the Assembly or the Senate reject it within 60 days of receiving the commission's report.

Brown's plan shuffles departments, eliminates agencies and consolidates others. The governor says the plan would streamline government and save money.

Jerry Brown starts clock on sweeping government overhaul
The State Worker: Will Jerry Brown's reorg plan fix California's bugs?
Column Extra: More about reorganizing California government

120419 LHC Press_Release_4-23-12

April 19, 2012
California state workers' No. 1 college degree: Psychology

120420 Head.JPGAs this blog has mentioned from time to time, government workers are generally better-educated than the general population.

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that about 40 percent of California state workers hold a bachelor's degree, compared with 30 percent of all adult Californians. (The statistic doesn't include college professors, administrators and teachers, who almost universally hold degrees.)

But The Bee's database guru, Phillip Reese, has gone one step further. He parsed the data and found that 6.6 percent of college-graduated state workers have a degree in psychology, more than any other major.

Click here for a chart that shows the 25 most popular majors among California state workers by the percentage of degrees held by state employees and by all adults statewide.

IMAGE: 2011 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

April 19, 2012
AM Reading: Ballot measure messages; CalPERS' 'fiasco'; Georgia workers arrested
April 19, 2012
AM Reading: Ballot measure messages; CalPERS' 'fiasco'; Georgia workers arrested
April 19, 2012
Column Extra: Union gives $500,000 to fight 'paycheck' ballot measure

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column mentions the latest donation tallies in the campaign arms race over the Stop Special Interest Money Act, dubbed "paycheck deception" by its opponents in labor.

The biggest donation to either side since we last reported the numbers: a $500,000 contribution from the California Council of Service Employees Issues Committee, which like other labor groups, opposed the measure. The council is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.


April 18, 2012
Salary cap measure clears California Senate committee

120418 Senator Anderson Senate Floor Photo.JPGA bill that would cap California state employees' pay at no more than what the governor earns cleared the Senate Public Employee and Retirement Committee today on a 3-1 vote.

Senate Bill 1368, authored by Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, would limit the annual pay of state officers and employees, including overtime, to the governor's salary, currently $173,987 per year.

The measure exempts current salaries set by contracts but requires the limitations to take effect for those employees once those deals expire. Anderson's bill also includes exemptions for public safety workers and judges.

Republican Sens. Ted Gaines of Rocklin and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel and Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego voted for the measure. Sen. Alex Padilla D-Los Angeles, opposed it. Chino Democratic Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod abstained.

The measure now moves to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee for a hearing Tuesday.

CalSTRS, which has sponsored a bill that would allow it to boost pay for its chief financial officer and chief operating officer well beyond what the governor earns, has opposed the measure.

Related posts:
Anderson bill would cap state worker pay at Jerry Brown's salary
The State Worker: Linking state pay cap to governor is tricky exercise
Column Extra: Who earns more than Jerry Brown?
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

PHOTO: Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, on the Senate floor in 2011. / Courtesy Joel Anderson.

April 18, 2012
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

A bill scheduled for a committee hearing today would cap the compensation for two jobs at the California State Teachers' Retirement System at 150 percent of what the governor earns, but the new ceiling is twice what the positions currently earn.

Assembly Bill 1735, which is sponsored by CalSTRS, is in front of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The measure expands the list of jobs for which the fund's board can set compensation to include chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The fund says it needs the flexibility to compete for candidates outside of government. The bill caps what CalSTRS board could pay at one-and-a-half times the govenor's salary, currently about $174,000 per year.

"Given the new ceiling of $260,000 per annum, this bill allows CalSTRS to double existing salaries," an Appropriations staff analysis says. "The actual costs will depend on the compensation packages developed by the Teachers' Retirement Board."

CalSTRS says that paying more to get the most-skilled executives will save big bucks because it will be able to hire and hold better-qualified managers who make key business decisions.

The fund has said that it needs an infusion of money to meet its long-term pension obligations. In February, it reported assets of $152 billion, sustaining its pension fund for 856,000 public school teachers and their families in California's 1,600 school districts, county education offices and community college districts.

April 18, 2012
CalPERS pension deduction error resurfaces after 'fix'

Thumbnail image for 110503 Jelincic.JPGCalPERS new computer system is continuing to miscalculate some pension deductions, despite a modification that fund officials said had fixed the problem.

The issue came up Tuesday afternoon during a report to the fund's Pension and Health Benefits Committee by Donna Lum, Deputy Executive Officer for Customer Services and Support. Tuesday's Bee highlights some of the report, which you can read here.

CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco is checking on how many members are affected.

We've embedded a real-time transcript (which may not be an error-free verbatim record of the proceedings) at the end of this post and highlighted the exchange between Lum and board member J.J. Jelincic about the "unfixed" pension deduction problem:

April 17, 2012
From the notebook: The CalPERS computer system report

We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

The CalPERS computer system story in today's Bee draws from an item on the agenda of the fund's Pension and Health Benefits Committee, which is meeting this morning.

Here's the report on the system. Click here to watch the committee session live online, starting at 9 a.m. or after the Finance and Administration Committee ends its hearing, whichever is later.
CalPERS Workload Inventory

April 17, 2012
AM Reading: CalPERS' computer system; Nevada air time; Conn. longevity pay; safety worries, nepotism in California state hospitals
April 16, 2012
Paycheck initiative gets $250,000 donation, faculty union trumps it

Former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio gave $250,000 last month to support a ballot measure that would ban payroll deductions for raising money for political purposes, according to documents filed with the state.

Two days after Perenchio's Mar. 24 donation to the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" campaign, the California Faculty Association Political Issues Committee put $350,000 into Alliance for a Better California 2012, No on Paycheck Deception, sponsored by educators, firefighters, school employees, health care givers and labor organizations.

Perenchio's check was the biggest of a total $365,000 in pro-initiative donations reported to the Secretary of State's office on this April 4 filing.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Protective League's Public Safety First PAC put in $125,000, bringing the total to defeat the measure on this April 10 report to $375,000.

Both sides are writing checks anticipating a political slugfest that could total $50 million or more in campaign spending by the time voters decide on the measure in November.

While the initiative would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

Labor contends the measure is tilted against them, because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders.

In all, supporters have given $2.9 million and opponents $4.7 million.

April 13, 2012
AM Reading: CA furlough lawsuit; Dems debate WI collective bargaining; states cut mental health services
April 12, 2012
Judge leaning toward furlough back pay for California state engineers, scientists

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgRoughly 13,000 state workers could receive back wages for two furlough days if a tentative ruling in a union lawsuit becomes final after lawyers debate the case on Friday.

Judges rarely change their tentative decisions.

April 12, 2012
See what California state departments cut from 2011-12 budgets

So how much has your department cut its budget this year?

The Department of Finance table below shows how cuts for fiscal 2011-12 totaling $224 million are spread among 150 departments. The numbers reflect the savings targets set by Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze order last year. Departments had to submit budget cut plans to the administration in order to resume hiring without administrative review by the governor's office.

Cuts included things like travel, equipment purchases, employee training and outside contracting. Some departments eliminated budget money they were holding to fill vacant positions.

Finance certified each department's budget cuts and issued instructions to the Controller's Office that holds them to the lower levels of spending, Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said during an interview for our Monday report on state hiring.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabiliation remains under the hiring freeze. The department is shedding jobs as it shrinks its inmate population and shifts its parole functions to local governments.

The table divides up the 2011-12 budget cuts into four categories:

April 12, 2012
AM Reading: CA's tough guv; ME contracting dispute; SC pay raise debate

CA's tough guv; ME contracting dispute; SC pay raise debate

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Storified by Jon Ortiz · Thu, Apr 12 2012 03:24:17

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Click the link below to open PAGE 2.

April 11, 2012
California senators call for a vote on Jerry Brown's pension plan

California's ranking Senate Republican and one of the GOP's representatives on a special pension committee have fired off letters to Gov. Jerry Brown and their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, calling for a key committee vote on the governor's pension reform plan later this week.

Republicans have embraced Brown's plan and put it word for word in two bills. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel on Tuesday signed the letters delivered to Brown and pension conference committee co-chairs Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, pushing for a vote Friday when the committee meets in Southern California.

They asked Brown to "join us to demand immediate legislative action on your twelve point pension plan, which we believe represents the first steps that must be enacted to get our runaway pension system under control."

Walters is a member of the committee, which has been meeting since last fall to come up with a pension reform plan. Majority Democrats on the panel have been lukewarm, at best, to key provisions of Brown's plan, and the governor hasn't said much about it since he issued the draft legislation which was co-opted by Republicans in February.

President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has said that the Legislature will pass a comprehensive pension-reform measure this year.

Click the link below to read the letters.

April 11, 2012
How many unionized state workers are there, anyway?

One question that we're sometimes asked is, how many state workers are represented by a union?

The figure fluctuates daily. According to the latest State Controller's Office report to the Department of Personnel Administration, as of the end of last year, 181,822 state employees were represented in the 21 bargaining units that negotiate with the governor.

That count doesn't include the state's two university systems, the Legislature or the judicial branch, which all handle their own personnel matters.

Here's the tally by bargaining unit, denoted on the list as R01, R02, etc.:

April 11, 2012
California pension crusader says accusers embezzled money

Thumbnail image for 110504 Fritz.JPGMarcia Fritz, perhaps the most public face of California's public pension reform movement, has answered a lawsuit that she violated labor laws and failed to contribute to former employees' retirement accounts -- and filed a civil complaint of her own claiming her accusers embezzled thousands from the accounting firm she once owned.

In documents filed in Sacramento Superior Court last week, Fritz says that Colleen and Tannith Mitchell, a mother and daughter who used to work for Citrus Heights-based accounting firm Marcia Fritz & Co. cost the the company more than $50,000 by giving themselves unearned bonuses and cash advances and running up unauthorized purchases.

As the company's office manager, Colleen Mitchell also was responsible for payroll, according to Fritz's cross-complaint, and failed to make timely payments into the employee retirement accounts.

The Mitchells' attorney, Peter McEntee, said that Fritz's counter-claims are bogus.

"We think it's retaliation for attempting to enforce my clients' labor code rights," McEntee said in a telephone interview this morning.

April 11, 2012
AM Reading: California drug agents' bill; CalSTRS and CalPERS; UCLA's mistake
April 10, 2012
CalSTRS reaped big earnings but obligations still grew last year

The California State Teachers Retirement System said today that the gap between its promises to pensioners and its assets to pay them grew to $64.5 billion in fiscal 2011, up $8.5 billion from a year earlier.

The unfunded ratio grew from 29 percent to 31 percent despite the fund's investments turning a 22 percent profit for the year that ended on June 30, 2011.

CalSTRS Deputy CEO Ed Derman said during a conference call this morning that the fund would need to realize 10 percent returns for the next 30 years to climb out of the funding hole through investments alone.

Put another way, CalSTRS needs an annual infusion of money equal to about 13 percent of the annual wages earned by its 430,000 school-employee members. Actuaries said in a report due to the CalSTRS board on Thursday that losses carried over from the stock market collapse, a lowering of investment return assumptions and money allocated to a special benefits fund all contributed to the growth of the unfunded liability.

CalSTRS in February reported assets of $152 billion, sustaining its pension fund for 856,000 public school teachers and their families in California's 1,600 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts.

April 10, 2012
California Senate President Darrell Steinberg says public pension reform still on track

Thumbnail image for 110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGState lawmakers are still considering public pension changes, including a hybrid plan that would allow for a defined benefit component capped at a certain salary level.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, revealed discussed the proposal to reporters on Monday afternoon, saying that plan is still in the formative stages.

Meanwhile the joint committee on pensions that has been meeting since late last year is scheduled to meet again on Friday in Southern California.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a hybrid pension plan that mixes blends Social Security, a defined benefit and a more volatile 401(k)-style component that would aim to match 75 percent of an employee's three-year average income when they retire.

"We would prefer to take a different approach," Steinberg said, that would cap the defined benefit component to a percentage of salary, then supplement that with investment income.

"That makes more sense so that lower wage, middle wage workers are guaranteed a middle class pension," he said.

Like Brown, Steinberg linked pension legislation that cuts costs to gaining voter support for tax increases the governor and Democrats hope to put on the November ballot.

"I think there's an expectation that we'll pass pension reform this year and we intend to do so," Steinberg said. "And that is the right thing to do. And I think it also shows the people as we approach the November election that we're serious about the reform side of the agenda as well."

PHOTO: Darrell Steinberg during an interview at The Bee Capitol Bureau. / Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee, 2011

April 9, 2012
Read the California state worker unions' contract extension letters

As we reported earlier today, four unions representing roughly 24,000 state workers have reached agreements with Gov. Jerry Brown to extend the terms of their current contracts, which are due to expire in a few months.

The agreements cover state employees in bargaining units 12 (skilled crafts workers), 16 (doctors and dentists), 18 (psychiatric technicians) and 19 (health and social services professionals).

Open a larger view of the contract extension letters embedded below by clicking the "full screen" button at the bottom of the document display.

Contract extentions for bargaining units 12, 16, 18 and 19

April 9, 2012
Poll: Why has hiring dropped off under Jerry Brown's watch?

As our story in today's Bee notes, state hiring fell 25 percent during the first year of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's administration when compared with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's last year in office.

But how much is Brown responsible? After all, the state still added more than 10,000 new full- and part-time employees in the first 14 months of his comeback third term. How much of the difference in numbers is a difference in leadership style, administrative savvy, political experience or bureaucratic cooperation?

Is is possible, for example, that Schwarzenegger's tough-on-state-workers policies (furloughs, attempts to withhold wages during budget stalemates, the campaign to roll back public pensions) prodded so many civil servants into retirement that his administration wound up hiring more than Brown?

Or has Brown, drawing on his many years in the public sector including two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, simply done a better job of managing the state deficit -- and gained the bureaucracy's support to slow hiring in the process?

On The State Worker's Facebook page, retired state worker Mike Carbahal gave this opinion: "Schwarzenegger did not know what he was doing, nobody paid him or his programs much if any attention - Brown on the other hand does know what he is doing and is taken very seriously."

What do you think?

April 9, 2012
California state worker unions reach tentative labor pacts with Jerry Brown

Four unions representing a combined 24,000 state employees have reached tentative agreements with the Brown administration to extend their existing contracts for another year.

The unions represent state skilled crafts workers in IUOE, Bargaining Unit 12; doctors and dentists in UAPD, Unit 16; psychiatric technicians in CAPT, Unit 18; and health and social service professionals in Unit 19, which is represented by AFSCME.

All four groups are working under contracts that expire July 1. The extensions freeze the status quo for the unions until after potential ballot box decisions on a state tax hike in November, including one promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown. The deals also set up a scenario where the entire unionized state workforce, roughly 190,000 employees in 21 bargaining units, will be under labor pacts that expire on July 1, 2 or 3 of 2013.

Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel Administration confirmed the agreements contained in four one-page letters that roll over the terms of the four existing contracts. The letters aren't yet available, but as soon as they are, The State Worker will link to them or post them here.

April 9, 2012
From the notebook: California's government hiring trends under Jerry Brown

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our report in today's Bee looks at how many first-time state workers the state has hired during Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's return to the executive branch. We also compare those figures with how many workers the state hired during GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's final year.

What follows are hiring tallies by job class and department from data provided to us by the State Controller's Office. The numbers show how many individuals were hired from January 2011 through last February, two more months than the hiring tables published with today's report:

April 7, 2012
AM Reading: California tax cheats; 'American Idle'; 'seismic shift' in TN hiring policy; FL Gov. Scott signs drug-testing bill

Your morning roundup of civil service news from California and the nation

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Sat, Apr 07 2012 09:51:17

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out The State Worker community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns. Sign up in the box at the top of this page for State Worker news alerts
If California taxpayers paid up, state's deficit would disappearBy Kevin Yamamura As Californians put the finishing touches on their income tax returns, tax collectors say the state's $9.2 billion ...
Pensions Find Riskier Funds Fail to Pay OffAn analysis of the sampling presents an unflattering portrait of the riskier bets: the funds with a third to more than half of their mone...
CalPERS buying Russell Investments Center?... Co. has the Russell Investments Center in downtown Seattle under contract for sale to CommonWealth Partners LLC, a Los Angeles-based ...
Video: Government workers mock lavish conferenceOfficials with the federal agency now under congressional investigation over a lavish conference were captured on camera joking about the...
UNCOVERED: Federal Government Worker "American Idle"? - Long Version and GSA Awards Ceremonyoversightandreform
Click the link below to open PAGE 2.

April 6, 2012
Teamsters ask ex-Los Angeles mayor to ballot measure breakfast

120406 Riordan Bee 2004 John Decker.JPGThe Teamsters have invited former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to breakfast on Wednesday, April 11, to talk over the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" that will be on the November ballot.

The measure would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates. Both could still fund political independent expenditure campaigns.

The measure is seen as putting unions at a disadvantage because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations would still be able to raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders, just as they do now.

Riordan, a Republican, has contributed $50,000 to Californians Against Special Interests. That group, in turn, contributed $200,000 to the ballot measure, state records show.

On Thursday, Teamsters Joint Council 42 President Randy Cammack sent a letter to Riordan, asking him to meet for a breakfast chat. Union members and their families will also attend, Cammack said.

Will Riordan show? Even if he doesn't, he'll still be part of the event: The breakfast is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the iconic Original Pantry Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. Riordan owns The Pantry.

Click the link below to see the list of contributors to Californians Against Special Interests.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who also served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's secretary for education, talks to reporters about the budget in his Sacramento office. John Decker/ Sacramento Bee file, 2004.

April 6, 2012
Pension and public employee bills set for hearing Monday

120406 State Capitol Building 1996 Sac Bee Rob Ferris.JPGThe Senate Public Employment & Retirement Committee is scheduled to hear several bills Monday, including three measures of interest to state employees:

SB 955 (Fran Pavley): Authorizes pension boards to give investment priority to in-state infrastructure projects over out-of-state infrastructure projects.

SB 1234 (Kevin de León): Establishes a guaranteed retirement savings system for private-sector workers. (Click here for a recent report on the measure.)

SB 1368 (Joel Anderson): Caps state employee pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000. (Click here for a recent State Worker column about the measure.)

The committee hearing is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 2040.

PHOTO CREDIT: California State Capitol / Sacramento Bee file, Rob Ferris

April 5, 2012
Column Extra Poll: Government's call to 'customer' service

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee examines the notion that government has "customers." Click here to view the section of the 2004 California Performance Review we referenced today, titled "Putting Californians First -- Creating a Customer Service Framework."

Read the column, check out the report and then take our poll:

April 5, 2012
AM Reading: Government's 'customers'; KS court furloughs; court declines to take up AZ domestic-partner benefits case
April 4, 2012
More mold found at California Board of Equalization HQ

JM FALLING GLASS BOE BLDG.JPGWorkers at the state Board of Equalization's Sacramento headquarters found mold between the building's ninth and 10th floors last month, although this time the discovery didn't displace any staff.

BOE spokesman Jaime Garza said in an email that "the area was immediately closed, the mold was removed, and Hygiene Technologies conducted testing which concluded the air was safe and clean."

Hygiene Technologies is the company contracted by the boardto handle air quality tests at the 24-story building at 450 N St.

While conducting some unrelated repairs on the building on Mar. 24, DGS staff and Hygiene Technologies employees came across the mold in a space above an empty storage area on the ninth floor. The company removed the mold last weekend.

The BOE has a long history of problems that have cost the state millions to repair and clean up, including water pipe leaks, mold, malfunctioning elevators and faulty windows. Earlier this year a glass panel fell eight floors and shattered on the sidewalk after it popped loose from the east side of the building. No one was injured.

Correction, 5:54 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Hygiene Technologies was contracted by the Department of General Services.

PHOTO: The Board of Equalization headquarters / 2005 Sacramento Bee file, Jay Mather

April 4, 2012
AM Reading: Pensions squeeze CA cities; civil service changes in TN and WA
April 3, 2012
Are American state workers scourges or scapegoats?

Are state workers dragging down state budgets around the nation? Or have public employees and their compensation packages become convenient political scapegoats?

A year ago the PBS news show "Need to Know" took on what it calls "one of the most contentious arguments in the news today." We ran across the report this morning while surveying state worker news. Although the item ran on March 11, 2011, the topic remains relevant today.

Watch Union Salaries and State Budgets on PBS. See more from Need to Know.

April 3, 2012
SEIU Local 1000, business interests prep for ballot initiative battle

Cash is beginning to flow into campaign war chests as labor and business interests prepare for an all-out brawl over a ballot measure that will ask Californians whether employee payroll deductions should fund political action committees.

Stop Special Interest Money Now has recieved $460,000 in donations since Jan. 1 to support the measure, according to California Secretary of State filings (embedded after the jump). Of that, $200,000 came from Californians Against Special Interests. That group, in turn, is backed with money from Charles T. Munger Jr. and others. Munger is a son of Charles Munger, the billionaire vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Meawhile, SEIU Local 1000 gave a quarter-million dollars to the anti-initiative Alliance for a Better California 2012, No on Paycheck Deception on Mar. 20, state records (also embedded below) show.

The two sides are piling up money for a looming multimillion-dollar battle over the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act."

While the measure would ban both unions and corporations from contributing directly to candidates, both could still fund independent expenditure campaigns to support candidates.

But the measure is seen as especially hard on unions, because it eliminates their primary method of raising money -- payroll deductions. Corporations, by contrast, raise the bulk of their campaign money from top executives and shareholders.

April 3, 2012
AM Reading: California's 'Occupy' costs; Democrats' pensions for all plan; Maine GOP considers reviving 'right-to-work' bill
April 2, 2012
State workers' savings plan office moving soon

Savings Plus, the non-CalPERS program that makes 401(k) and 457 retirement savings accounts available to most state workers, has announced its Sacramento front office is moving to a temporary location.

The office closing on 15th Street has been leased by the state for 15 years. Officials decided to close it to save costs. The program's public counter, which is the point of personal contact with state employees, is moving temporarily to a location on R and 16th streets. Look for the public counter's permanent space to open later this year in the same complex.

Savings Plus has combined assets of $8.2 billion.

Editor's note, 3:15 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the offices of Savings Plus were moving to temporary space. Only the public counter is moving.

Savings Plus is on the Move

April 2, 2012
AM Reading: Remembering Rex Babin

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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