The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 15, 2013
From the notebook: More about furloughs and leave accruals

130315-Notebook.JPGOur story in today's Bee expands on a new state report that quantifies the long-term impact of furloughs on California state employee leave. We contacted a half-dozen sources for reaction to the legislative analyst's conclusion that the policy will add $1 billion to what the state pays cash out employee leave and that the state should considering setting a hard leave cap and offer to buy down leave balances.

As we reported today, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources says Gov. Jerry Brown wants to get the state's estimated $3.9 billion in leave liabilities under control and reform the system. The issue could come up in upcoming contract talks with unions.

Here are some of the quotes from sources that didn't get into the story.

Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government:

On his interpretation of the LAO's findings: "I guess furloughs were a bad idea after all."

On the LAO's leave buyback suggestion: "It's the exact opposite of furloughs."

On how the parks covert leave-buyback program, which bypassed a sign-off from the Brown administration -- was different than the legislatively sanctioned leave buyback that the LAO's report suggests: "(Parks) didn't say, 'Mother, may I?' first."

On the idea of a "use-it-or-lose-it" leave rule: "That's really another way of saying management won't do their job. Right now, there's no reason for people to stay over 640 (hours) unless management doesn't do its job. This is already in state (regulation) and in contracts."

Pat McConahay, spokeswoman for CalHR:

On the state's growing employee-leave liability: "We know it's a problem, just like the deficit was. This is a carry-over from a prior administration. It's short term savings and a long-term debt."

On why allowing some workers to stack up leave makes sense: "It's sometimes cheaper to allow employees to accumulate leave than hiring new workers."

On Brown's resolve to address leave liabilities: "We've already cut compensation by 5 percent (through negotiated furloughs that end July 1) and reformed the public pension system. This is a problem that will get fixed as well. We'll chip away at this."

Chris Voight, executive director of California Association of Professional Scientists:

On the LAO's report: "I was surprised to see this thing. It leaves out a key component: The Impact on employees. They're the ones who took the 15-percent hit on their pay. The idea that there's large vacation balances? It's a no brainer. Duh. Our position at the time was that it was a hair-brained idea. ... It seems like an odd time (for the report), and it certainly misses the mark."

On some of the report's conclusions: "(The report says) furloughs have negatively affect public's trust. Well, it sure has affected employee trust in management. People lost their houses. It's had a huge impact on businesses downtown. All because Schwarzenegger insisted (on furloughs)."

On the LAO's suggestion the state adopt a "use-it-or-lose-it" leave cap rule:
That simply doesn't work. Our members are held to the cap. When they're not, the work they're doing is absolutely essential."

From an email to The State Worker by JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association:

On the report's finding that correctional officers have endured the most furlough days of any employee group: "As a result of understaffing at the time and a state budget that didn't allow for the proper funding of 'vacation relief,' officers weren't given the opportunity to actually take the furlough days off because each post had to be filled 24/7. Subsequently, the leave balances skyrocketed and created enormous accruals to be paid out once an officer retires or separates from state service. This is one of the reasons that CCPOA argued against the imposition of furloughs on 24 hour posts."

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Gabi Campanario / Seattle Times 2007

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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