The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 28, 2012
Majority of California voters say pension reform balanced or went too far

More than half of likely California voters think recent changes to public pensions strike a good balance or go too far, according to a new poll by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times.

The poll mirrors a similar survey by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies released last week.

September 27, 2012
California state worker retirements decline slightly

New CalPERS data show that the number of state workers who have entered retirement has fallen slightly from the first nine months of 2011.

The 8,171 employees who applied for their state pensions declined 3.3 percent to 8,454 during the first nine months of 2011.

September 26, 2012
The Roundup: Another pay study; CA's retirement plan-for-all; government jobs not part of recovery

The Roundup: Another pay study; CA's retirement plan-for-all; government jobs not part of recovery

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Wed, Sep 26 2012 08:06:31

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.

Starting salaries for state workers lower than for other public employeesState workers nearly always have lower starting salaries than their counterparts in city and county governments, according to a study rel...
After scandal, Jerry Brown signs bill to keep parks open - The Sacramento BeeGov. Jerry Brown gave California's 278 state parks a two-year reprieve from closures Tuesday after embarrassing revelations that parks of...
Utah Gov. issues health challenge to state workers - Salt Lake Tribune10 hours ago ... "Too many of us are couch potatoes. We can do more and watch less," he said. " True health reform boils ...

September 25, 2012
From the notebook: The Field Poll numbers on Proposition 32

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.

Several blog users have asked for more of the data that informed our Friday story in the Bee about a Propostion 32 voter survey by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

What follows is the statistical breakdown and analysis by the Field Poll's Mark Dicamillo and Mervin Field, including the results of a question on pension reform. Scroll to the bottom of the document for the poll's methodology and the exact wording of the questions asked.

If you want to go even deeper, we've also embedded the poll tabulations that break out responses by subgroups such as geography, ethnicity, education level and age.

September 24, 2012
Unions contribute $3.48 million to anti-Proposition 32 campaign

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100806 ballot-box.jpgThe American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contributed $1.5 million to defeat Proposition 32, part of $3.48 million given by labor unions and politicians within the last week.

The campaign supporting the campaign finance-reform initiative raised about one-tenth over the same period.

September 24, 2012
The Roundup: Proposition 32; states' pension cuts survey; Texas man threatens state workers

The Roundup: Proposition 32; CalPERS cuts bonuses; Texas man threatens state workers

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Mon, Sep 24 2012 08:20:43

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.
Ad Watch: Prop. 32 spot's shadowy images befit its sponsors - The Sacramento BeeSupporters of Proposition 32, a Nov. 6 ballot measure to change campaign finance law, have launched a 33-second television and radio ad c...
Endorsement: Proposition 32 power play deserves a 'no' vote - The Sacramento BeeOnce again, Californians are being asked to diminish unions' power by restricting their ability to raise campaign money. Once more, initi...
Payroll deductions targeted21 hours ago ... By: By Jon Ortiz ... Proposition 32 has drawn fire for a provision to ban ... Gloria Romero of Los Angeles, who suppor...
CalPERS cuts bonuses to retirement system's investment prosNo salary increases were given to senior leadership. Joe Dear, chief investment officer, received an $87,750 bonus for the fiscal year en...
Number of the Week: Government Workers Stay Put Longer7.8: Median number of years that public workers have been employed by the government as of January 2012. Americans in general are remaini...

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September 23, 2012
Why we posted California parks documents, available here

A few blog users have asked why The State Worker has posted more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports released by the California Natural Resources Agency that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

The agency released the documents after The Bee's Matt Weiser broke the leave credit purchase story, which evolved into a revelation that parks had squirreled away $54 million while also preparing to close facilities and seeking private-sector donations and partnerships.

The impact of the story has spilled over into the political debate over Proposition 30, a tax measure on the November ballot that Gov. Jerry Brown supports.

The documents we've posted over the last month provide a rare window into state's self-policing infrastructure and touches on many issues: cronyism, the impact of retiree turnover, state management, budget management, retired annuitants and the chain of command. Still, "Does anybody even read them?" one person asked in an email.

Yes, they do. Parks is one of the biggest departments in California state government, and feedback we've received indicates that the series is particularly well-read by those employees. Some users have said they read the interviews like an unfolding novel. Many readers, both in and out of government, have responded positively to the series and weighed in with comments and questions that will undoubtedly shape future stories.

Beyond that, posting public records from the investigation helps hold public servants accountable and deters future misdeeds.

This post concludes the series by responding to several users' requests for a single item with links to all the documents. We've organized them in alphabetical order after the jump.

September 21, 2012
From the notebook: What other polls say about Proposition 32

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 story in today's Bee looks at the latest polling on Proposition 32 by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The results showed 44 percent against, 38 percent for and 18 percent undecided.

But that wasn't the only survey on the state campaign finance reform measure released this week. On Wednesday the Public Policy Institute of California said that its most recent polling shows 49 percent of likely voters in the state said they will vote no on the measure. Of the other voters polled by the nonpartisan institute, 42 percent said that they will vote for the measure and 9 percent said they were undecided.

September 20, 2012
Column Extra: More about unions' and business interests' political spending

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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 Bee cites data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the path of political cash in California and other states, including money spent by labor unions and business interests.

We choose to look at contributions in 2010 for today's column because that's the last election year for which there is complete data. The institute uses quarterly reports from the California Secretary of State, so the figures for this year didn't include many of the biggest contributions for and against Proposition 32 that have come in since the end of June. Those numbers will be released early next month. We'll post them here.

On a related note, starting today we're tapping into an automatically-updated Proposition 32 contributions widget that will appear whenever we blog about the measure. The widget, left, comes courtesy of Maplight.org, another nonpartisan group that tracks political spending in California and elsewhere.

September 19, 2012
The parks investigation: The final report

Here's the final state investigators' report on the leave buyback scandal at the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The report is among the more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and audits released by the Natural Resources Agency that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at parks during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee's Matt Weiser broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.

Lopez Investigation 2012-5-1 r

September 19, 2012
Poll: What do you think of Proposition 32?

You've read the stories, columns and the blog posts. Maybe you've talked about it with your friends, family and coworkers. Now weigh in on Proposition 32:


September 19, 2012
The Roundup: The 'stealth attack' on unions; AZ workers trade protections for pay raise; LA sheds state jobs

The Roundup: The 'stealth attack' on unions; AZ workers trade protections for pay raise, LA sheds state jobs

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Wed, Sep 19 2012 08:10:36

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.
Dan Morain: A stealth attack seeks to drain labor money - The Sacramento BeeA campaign ad airing statewide portrays crooked politicians and shady lobbyists meeting in garages and stairwells, seemingly at the Calif...
Pension changes: The impact on educationHow the pension reform bill affects public education varies with the different operational laws covering the parts of the system. A notab...

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September 17, 2012
From the notebook: What California state workers pay in union dues and fees

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 story in today's fiber/cyber Bee mentions how much state workers paid in union dues and fair share fees for one month, December 2011: roughly $10.5 million.

What follows are three spreadsheets that lay out state workers' dues and fair share payments of that month, built from the state controller's payroll records. The first sheet details the number of employees by bargaining unit and their payments to their unions (it also pulls out numbers for the largest union, SEIU Local 1000). The second focuses on the percentage of dues and fair share fee payers in each unit. The third shows the regular pay and total pay by union.

September 17, 2012
The Roundup: How Prop. 32 impacts unions; Chicago teachers picket; CA pension reform's long tail

The Roundup: Why Proposition 32 impacts unions; Chicago teachers strike; CA pension reform's long tail

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Mon, Sep 17 2012 08:10:00

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.
Millions in union political money at stake in Proposition 32 fight - The Sacramento BeeLabor unions argue that a campaign-finance measure on California's November ballot would unfairly hobble their political pull, but behind...
Quick appeal expected in collective bargaining caseMadison - A Dane County judge's ruling striking down many limits on collective bargaining for public workers will likely be appealed quic...
Chicago teachers picket for 6th school day - The Sacramento BeeChicago teachers are picketing at schools citywide for the sixth school day as they read over the latest contract offer from the district...

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September 14, 2012
Conservative organization gives $4 million to Proposition 32

With a single donation, a conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers has doubled the money backing a ballot measure that would hamper union's political fundraising.

The Des Moines, Iowa-based American Future Fund gave $4 million to a new committee backing Proposition 32, the California Future Fund for Free Markets.

The American Future Fund is an organization affiliated with the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which in turn has reported ties to billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The measure has several provisions, but labor groups are most concerned about its ban on using payroll-deducted money for political purposes. If enacted, the measure would eliminate unions' fundraising staple while leaving corporations relatively unscathed, since they raise their money from executive contributions or by tapping company resources.

The donation signals that a funding fight that was running 10-1 against the measure is far from over.

The Koch brothers, worth an estimated $50 billion, are considered among the conservative movement's most generous donors, although the opaque nature of PAC reporting makes it difficult to know exactly how much they have donated to candidates and causes around the nation.

September 14, 2012
The parks investigation: Media coverage a rationale for buying down leave

Person interviewed: Tim Wood
Job class: staff services manager II
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "There was an article that came out in the paper at that time talking about state employees and the fact of their leave cash outs. When they retire, how many hours they have on the books, looking at the picture from the Sacramento Bee perspective. They were hitting on individuals working in Corrections that were at, like, 900,000 (dollars)." -- Wood explaining how media coverage of state leave costs was discussed in a key meeting that led to the parks unauthorized buyout program (transcript page 17).

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out scheme, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the latest in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Wood Interview 2012-2-16

September 13, 2012
The Roundup: Labor's fights with Democrats; CalPERS axes investment firm; reactions to CA pension reform

The Roundup: Labor's fights with Democrats; CalPERS axes investment firm; reactions to CA pension reform

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Thu, Sep 13 2012 06:16:51

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.
The State Worker: Watch Chicago for signs of public-worker union strength - The Sacramento BeeWatch Chicago. A strike by teachers there demonstrates public sector unions' struggle to find their footing in an era when even their fri...
AFSCME under siegeWhat would drive a crowd of unionized state employees to boo the very governor they helped elect? The answer is about $83 billion of pens...
CalPERS drops investment firm that accused fund of bias - The Sacramento BeeCalPERS has fired a firm entrusted with managing $1 billion of the pension fund's money - five months after the firm accused CalPERS of r...

September 12, 2012
The parks investigation: Administrator reprimanded for going along with leave buyouts

Person interviewed: Dave Saxby
Job: parks administrative services assistant deputy director
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Dates of interviews: Feb. 15, 2012, and April 25, 2012
Notable quote No. 1: "I said I can understand that you can do buy back for excess hours but just to help somebody, (I) said what would be our logic if ... somebody comes and puts a microphone in our face, what do we say? ... I personally can't think of anything and I said you're crazy if we do that." -- Saxby's account of his advice to Manuel Lopez to resist requests to allow employees in financial hardship to participate in the parks leave buyback program even if their hours didn't exceed the state's 640-hour cap. (See February transcript page 22.)
Notable quote No. 2: Most people were scared of him, wouldn't tell him the truth. ... People don't like being yelled at." -- Saxby's description of Lopez's "dysfunctional" management style. (See April transcript page 28.)

Saxby, a long-time state employee, received a formal reprimand for neglect of duty, misuse of state property and other failure of good behavior. Parks officials said that he knew, or should have known, that the leave scheme needed state approval and shouldn't have assumed the program had received it. We've posted the Notice of Adverse Action along with Saxby's two interview transcripts.

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.

September 12, 2012
See who's supporting Proposition 32

Supporters of Proposition 32, the campaign contribution measure on the November ballot, have raised about 10 cents for every dollar raised by their opponents, according to data from the Secretary of State's office.

The spreadsheets below detail the nearly $3.2 million in contributions given to the Yes on 32 campaign. To see breakdowns of the $35.8 million donated by opponents, nearly all of it union money, click here.

Labor organizations blast the initiative as faux campaign reform that would cut off their chief means of raising political money. Although corporations would come under the same restrictions, the measure wouldn't curb their political resources to the same degree, because they raise most of their funds through executive contributions and company treasuries.

Supporters counter that the measure limits political contributions to the fullest degree allowed by law, that it reflects federal standards and that it would limit the flow of money -- and the influence that goes with it -- from both labor and business interests.

September 12, 2012
UPDATED: Jerry Brown signs California public pension reform bill

Gov. Jerry Brown this morning signed Assembly Bill 340, the pension reform measure that the lawmakers passed on the last day of the legislative session.

Read more from The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall by clicking here.

Updated at 1:16 p.m.: From AFSCME California spokesman Willie Pelote: "Today when Governor Brown signed AB 340 he made his disdain for a secure future for public employees crystal clear. AB 340 was flawed legislation that failed to take into account the massive concessions that public employees across California have made to balance budgets at the state and local level. As if there was any doubt the Governor's comments yesterday that pension changes didn't go far enough revealed that the Governor's real intent is to take public retirement funds and hand them over to the same Wall Street gamblers who drove our economy into a ditch."

Updated at 12;12 p.m.: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has released a statement about the pension legislation that reads, in part, "SEIU Local 1000 has always supported smart pension reform that ensures that as many workers as possible can afford a modest level of retirement security as they grow older. We believe that, in the long-run, the solution to the retirement crisis is to expand retirement security for all workers - public and private - not whittle away at the pensions of teachers, nurses, analysts, auditors and water quality personnel."

September 12, 2012
The parks investigation: Lopez said he was cashing out leave, encouraged same

Person interviewed: Ted Novack
Job: senior parks and recreation specialist
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "The comment was that you should take advantage of this because I'm going to." - Novack recalling encouragement by Manuel Lopez, the deputy director at the center of parks covert leave buyback program, for managers in a meeting to cash out their leave. Novack didn't participate because, he told investigators, he didn't need the money and preferred to take the time off.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Novack Interview 2012-2-24

September 11, 2012
The parks investigation: Employee's leave buyback processed in one day

Person interviewed: Kevin Smith
Job:
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 2012
Notable quote: "The next day." -- The amount of time it took for Smith to get a leave buyout check of about $2,400 once he provided proof of financial hardship to Paris Jackson, his manager in the parks administrative division. (See transcript page 12.)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Smith Interview 2012-3-9

September 11, 2012
See who's fighting Proposition 32

The spreadsheets below, downloaded from the California Secretary of State's filings this morning, detail $35.8 million in contributions to the No on 32 campaign.

Labor organizations have made defeating the measure a top priority this fall, since it would squeeze their political spending resources. The measure would ban payroll-deducted monies from use for political purposes, cutting off unions' chief means of raising such funds. Corporations would come under the same restrictions, but the measure wouldn't impact them as significantly since they play in politics with money contributed by executives and companies' funds.

We're posting this spreadsheet in response to several blog users' requests that we make the information easily accessible. We'll soon publish the details behind the funds raised by the Yes on 32 side, which amounts to a little more than $3 million.

September 10, 2012
The parks investigation: Staff complained about HQ leave buyouts while field was 'bleeding'

Person interviewed: Lisa Ortega
Job classification: accounting administrator II
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "So somebody brought that up ... that admin was buying leave while the field is bleeding." -- Ortega's account of what a parks superintendent said in a meeting when attendees were asked to describe unethical behavior in their departments. (See page 17)

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents readily accessible to the public.
Ortega Interview 2012-2-24

September 10, 2012
The Roundup: Bankruptcy law versus pension law; OR hires more temps; NY retiree health costs

The Roundup: Bankruptcy law versus pension law; OR hires more temps; NY retiree health costs

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Mon, Sep 10 2012 10:18:27

Stockton bankruptcy case could test security of public pensions - The Sacramento BeeGoing to work for the government has always come with an ironclad promise: Your pension benefits will be there when you retire. It's a le...
California state parks budget officials for years unable to explain surpluses - The Sacramento BeeOver and again, budget officials at the California Department of Parks and Recreation struggled to understand why every fiscal year ended...
Editorial: CalSTRS still doesn't realize it has a pension spiking problem - The Sacramento BeeTo guard against pension spiking, the California State Teachers' Retirement System has a system that electronically identifies suspicious...

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September 7, 2012
Column Extra: Internal memo cautioned economic slump would boost pension costs

120907 MARTY MORGENSTERN.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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.

As we researched California's public pension history for our Thursday State Worker column, CalPERS' media relations office passed along a 1999 memo from then-Department of Personnel Administration Director Marty Morgenstern. The note to managers -- who would no doubt field questions from rank-and-file employees about why the state didn't just implement the increases -- explained why Morgenstern wanted to bargain them. He was particularly concerned about obligating the state pension system to life-time pension promises to employees based on fabulous-but-fickle CalPERS investment returns at the time:

You may be asked, "Why not the entire CalPERS package, isn't the Board paying for it?" The answer is no. CalPERS' earnings do help, but the State must still contribute millions of dollars each year to CalPERS to pay for our pensions. It is true that the State contribution has gone down of late. The biggest reasons ... low inflation, a good economy and the fact that CalPERS returns on investment have been greater than expected. Yet there is no guarantee that our economy will continue to grow at the same rate. More importantly, perhaps, we do not believe it is prudent to assume that CalPERS will continue to earn record-high investment returns. Like buying a home with a variable rate mortgage that has no cap, the risk would be too great.

The document embedded below includes Morgenstern's full memo and the Legislative Analyst's December 1999 take on the pension increases authorized in Senate Bill 400.


September 7, 2012
CalSTRS explains how pension reform affects members

The California State Teachers' Retirement System has published a succinct summary of the provisions in Assembly Bill 340, the pension reform measure on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The chart explains the details of the measure and members, whether current employees, retirees or workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013.

CalSTRS AB 340 Fact Sheet

September 7, 2012
The Roundup: CA local governments and pension reform; travel bans; TX study defends pensions

The Roundup: CA local governments and pension reform; travel bans; TX study defends pensions

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Fri, Sep 07 2012 01:04:36

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 to receive State Worker news alerts.
Local officials still penciling out when California pension reform will help - The Sacramento BeeSweeping public pension legislation approved last week will change the relationship between thousands of California governments and their...
Florida High Court to Weigh $1 Billion State Pension CaseThe Florida Supreme Court is to hear arguments on whether Republican-backed changes to the state's public-employee pension system, touted...
Editorial: Governor has one choice: Veto AB 2451 - The Sacramento BeeTo win over voters who are undecided about his tax increase measure, Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown must first convince them that the s...

September 6, 2012
Teachers' union gives nearly $7 million to fight Proposition 32

The California Teachers Association has donated $6.95 million toward defeating the November ballot measure that would squeeze funding for unions' political efforts.

A state report filed today shows that the union gave the money on Wednesday. The donation pushes the union-backed No on Proposition 32 campaign to about $35.7 million. Of that, the teachers' union has given $16 million so far.

Proposition 32 supporters have raised about $3 million.

The measure would ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. It also bans direct campaign contributions by either interest group. Both sides could continue funding independent expenditure campaigns.

Labor unions have made defeating the initiative their top priority. They rely on payroll-deducted member dues to build their political war chests, including money for independent expenditure efforts. Corporations use contributions from executives and funds from their company treasuries to play in politics, so the measure wouldn't hit them as hard.

September 6, 2012
Column Extra: CalPERS' rationale for 1999 public pension hikes

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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 contasts CalPERS' measured reaction to recent public pension legislation to roll back benefits (now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature) with the fund's support for retroactive pension upgrades in 1999. Here's the brochure CalPERS issued back then, explaining why retirement benefits should be enhanced and how those increases would have no meaningful fiscal impact on employer costs.

The legislation on Bown's desk rolls back benefits to pre-1999 levels for workers hired Jan. 1, 2013 and later.

September 6, 2012
Column Extra: What CalPERS said on 1999 pension increases

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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.

Supporters and critics of pension reform legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown last week both make the point that the measure rolls back retirement benefits for future hires to pre-1999 levels. That year is significant because that's when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 400, retroactively and prospectively increasing benefits for state and local workers. Reformers consider the measure the Big Mistake in California public pensions' recent history.

We thought it might be interesting to see how CalPERS contributed to the discussion 13 years ago, so we've posted the staff analysis below. The agenda item from June 15, 1999, shows that the CalPERS board was given three scenarios of how much the enhanced package would cost in 10 years, depending on how well the fund's investments performed. The estimates ranged from zero costs to $679 million to nearly $4 billion.

The board went with the no-cost scenario in its campaign for the increases. (We'll soon post the CalPERS brochure that reflects the fund's pro-SB 400 position.)

Below the staff report you'll find a chart that shows In fiscal 2010-11, the state's actual SB 400 cost was $553 million, or $26 million below the mid-range scenario that staff envisioned in 1999.

September 6, 2012
Public pension reform: political posturing or profound pruning?

Tweet war: Political posturing or serious pension reform?

Here's an opening snippet of a debate that will run the next 60 days: Is the pension legislation California lawmakers sent to Gov. Jerry Brown truly serious pension reform or an inconsequential political ploy to pump up a November tax measure that Brown, Democrats and organized labor all support?

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Thu, Sep 06 2012 10:01:42

First, public-pension blogger Ed Mendel weighed in with his assessment: Assembly Bill 340 is significant.
Pension reform allows cities to bypass bargaining « Calpensions1 day ago ... Pension reform approved by the Legislature last week gives many cities new cost -cutting power that some have been unable ...
Steve Maviglio, organized labor's public-pension pitbull, then wrote about Mendel's item, arguing that editorials and columns dismissing the measure as a weak brew or calling for a "real" pension reform ballot initiative are wrong:
What the Pension "Reformers" Don't Tell You About11 hours ago ... Ed Mendel's widely-respected Calpensions.com takes a look at the new pension legislation today, noting that the ne...
And in this corner, Chris Reed, editorial writer for the San Diego U-T:
@stevenmaviglio What kabuki, Steve. First you pretend to loathe this reform. Now you're touting its hidden strengths. #MaviglioInAPretzelChris Reed
And awaaaay we go:
@chrisreed99 Re-read the piece. #Pension deal rips $40 billion+ more from public workers. I'm saying it goes too far, not that it's goodSteven Maviglio
@stevenmaviglio Steve Maviglio, I accuse you of Kabuki 101! It's not even grad level kabuki. Y'all think think it helps Prop 30. #FakeAngerChris Reed
Take $40b+ out of your hide and see how much #fakeanger there'd be. Black helicopters coming for you @chrisreed99Steven Maviglio

September 6, 2012
Column Extra: Pension fund critic Joe Nation compliments CalPERS

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much 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.

Joe Nation.jpgToday's State Worker column notes a marked change in CalPERS' public posture in the last year or so, a shift that we attribute to a leadership turnover, humbling scandals and investment losses that have moved its the organization to press for more transparency, tougher ethical standards and changes to how the fund manages risk.

While CalPERS doesn't hesitate to defend itself when it perceives an unwarranted attack, it also has moved to give critics a voice. Our column cites one example: CalPERS decision to invite Stanford professor Joe Nation, an ardent critic of the fund's investment assumptions, to an August forum on public pensions. Here's video of that event. Note what Nation says at the beginning of the session about CalPERS "big tent" and an earlier experience with the fund:

September 5, 2012
Sacramento Bee launches new digital subscriptions today

Starting today, The Sacramento Bee is launching a subscription package for access to our digital news, including The State Worker.

If you're a current print subscriber, you'll continue to have free digital access until your subscription renews. At that point you'll be offered an upgraded subscription that includes digital -- providing unlimited readership of this blog and the rest of our content at sacbee.com. Online-only readers will be asked to subscribe after 15 page views in a 30-day period.

Newspapers throughout the country have moved to this approach in the last couple of years. If you have questions about how it works, you can find a full Q&A here.

If you'd like to subscribe, click here.

September 5, 2012
The Roundup: CA union clout; AZ workers' pay raise deadline; MI 'bureaucracy busters'

The Roundup: CA union clout; AZ workers' pay raise deadline; MI 'bureaucracy busters'

Storified by Jon Ortiz · Wed, Sep 05 2012 09:01:40

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Thousands of state employees face deadlinePHOENIX -- Arizona state employees have two weeks to decide. On Sept. 14, state workers who are covered by the state merit system can get...
Dan Walters Daily, Sept. 3, 2012thebeecapitolalert
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September 4, 2012
The parks investigation: Covert leave cashouts put manager in 'awkward position'

Person interviewed: Sedrick Mitchell
Job: deputy director of external affairs, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "I expressed my disappointment that, one, we would be going down a path at this time, it puts us in an awkward position ... I've been telling my teams all along that we were going to be ... coming in under budget, that we had to make sacrifices, that the department was taking severe cuts and why are we doing this. And I said this is just another example of policies that are being put in place and ... I find out about it later ..." - Mitchell's reaction to learning about the parks' covert leave buyback program after he had been told -- and told a subordinate -- that no such program existed.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents accessible to the public.
Mitchell Interview 2012-2-16

September 4, 2012
The parks investigation: The problem with state workers' big leave balances

Person interviewed: Rachele Manges
Job: budget manager, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 2012
Notable quote: "(T)his department does have a problem all the time where we have employees that get huge payouts that we're not anticipating and then, you know, it could put us over budget with the tighter budget constraints. It's really going to be an issue this year -- and next." - Manges, on transcript page 9, explaining a rationale for the parks' leave buyback program.

The California Natural Resources Agency released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program. The report triggered a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities because it lacked funds.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public .
Manges Interview 2012-3-9

September 2, 2012
The parks investigation: Assistant describes parks official's worry over state audit

Person interviewed: Katerina Jose
Job : administrative assistant, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Mar. 9, 3012
Notable quote: "You can tell with him ... he turns red, you know ..." - Jose's comment (on transcription page 26) about how she knew her boss, parks personnel officer Jason Summers, was upset that the department was being audited.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those documents readily accessible to the public.
Jose Interview 2012-3-9

September 2, 2012
The parks investigation: Employee 'furious' to learn about covert leave program

Person interviewed: Delores Mejia
Job classification: associate government program analyst, Parks and Recreation
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview: Feb. 16, 2012
Notable quote: "So I was furious. And I go, you know, that's kind of unfair because, you know, knowing that we're going through a budget crisis, knowing that we weren't allowed to buy supplies and, you know, to do this and that." - Mejia's recollection of her reaction to finding out a parks employee had cashed out $18,000 worth of leave. After asking her supervisor why some employees got leave money and others didn't, Mejia was allowed to cash out 60 hours of leave time.

The California Natural Resources Agency recently released more than 1,000 pages of interviews, adverse action notices and reports that detail a covert employee leave buyback program at the Department of Parks and Recreation during the summer of 2011.

Natural resources issued the documents online in response to media requests after The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred the revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

This post is the next in a series intended to make the documents accessible to the public.
Mejia Interview 2012-2-16

September 1, 2012
Poll: What's your take on the pension bill sent to Jerry Brown?


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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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