The Legislature's 2012-13 state budget proposal eliminates language that Gov. Jerry Brown proposed that would have allowed him to furlough or make other payroll-cutting moves against rank-and-file state workers if their unions refused to negotiate a 5 percent pay reduction.
The unions have been pushing Democrats in the Legislature to make the change, which strengthens their position in negotiations with the administration to cut a total $839 million from the state's payroll costs.
Lawmakers could make more language tweaks between now and Friday's budget deadline or later enact legislation that restores some or all of the authority Brown wanted.
The budget language indicates that Democrats are hoping that all the unions will negotiate payroll reductions for the coming budget year without legislative intervention. But just as the union's hand is strengthened at the bargaining table now, Brown's position is weakened. The unions, which all have current contracts, could view the watered-down bill as a reason to seek more at the table, give Brown less or refuse any pay-cut deal at all.
There's a question in this for Brown, too: How much does he want explicit authorization to enact payroll reductions if bargaining fails? Is he willing to veto a budget that fails to give him that leverage? Or is he certain that all the unions will accept a 5 percent pay reduction even if there's no imposed furlough threat backing him up?
Here's the pertinent language in Assembly Bill 1464 and Senate Bill 1004, which was released this morning. We've underlined the key phrase:
SEC. 3.90. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, each item of appropriation, with the exception of those items for the California State University, the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, the Legislature, the Legislative Counsel Bureau, and the Judicial Branch, shall be reduced, as appropriate, to reflect reductions in employee compensation achieved through collective bargaining agreements and reductions for nonrepresented employees (utilizing existing authority of the administration to adjust compensation for nonrepresented employees) in the total amounts of $401,716,000 from General Fund items and $437,413,000 from items relating to other funds. The Director of Finance shall allocate the necessary reductions to each item of appropriation to accomplish the employee compensation reductions required by this section.
Here's the language that the governor proposed in his May budget revision: