The tentative agreement covering 95,000 state employees represented by SEIU Local 1000 includes a 4.5 percent raise spread over two years starting in mid-2014.
But the deal includes a contingency that puts employee pay raises below the state's other obligations and leaves it to the finance director, currently Ana Matosantos, to make the decision.
Here's the caveat in the Local 1000 tentative agreement posted online last week:
The increases specified ... are contingent on projected revenues at the 2014-15 May Revision to the Governor's Budget being sufficient to fully fund existing statutory and constitutional obligations, existing fiscal policy and the costs of providing the aforementioned pay increases to all eligible employees. If funding is determined to be insufficient to fund the pay increase ... for all eligible employees, no employees or bargaining units will receive the increase. Determination of funding availability relative to this section shall be at the sole discretion of the Director of the Department of Finance.
Should the finance director decide the state can't afford the partial raise next year, then the whole 4.5 percent gets pushed to July 1, 2015.
If bargaining history is a guide, the SEIU deal sets a template for the other 10 bargaining units in contract talks with Brown. We expect several will reach tentative agreements with Brown soon.Those with deferred raises will likely include similar contingency clauses.
Giving the finance director, a gubernatorial appointee, authority to make the decision removes it from legislative politics and puts the responsibility squarely on the Brown administration. When the decision is made next spring, Brown likely will be in the middle of his re-election campaign.
Previous finance chiefs have had their fingers on other triggers.
In 2003, for example, Finance Director Steve Peace said that the state's coffers had met the legal definition of "insufficient monies" required by law to triple California's car tax. Arnold Schwarzenegger hammered then-Gov. Gray Davis for the tax hike.
Voters recalled Democrat Davis later that year and elected Schwarzenegger, who reversed the car tax increase on his first day in office.
PHOTO: Finance Director Ana Matosantos talks about Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal in Sacramento on Monday, May 14, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua