The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 27, 2012
The Roundup: More CA Parks departures; Stockton fire chief quitting to preserve pension; IA union worried about prison officers' safety
July 26, 2012
The Roundup: Former CA deputy director at center of Parks' pay scandal speaks; IL could soon vote on pension cuts; WA workers get health care cost break
July 23, 2012
The Roundup: CA student jobs getting axed; cities pay CalPERS bill; federal wrongdoers shielded
July 21, 2012
The Roundup: CA parks scandal widens; CalPERS tells cities to watch pension costs; IL issues layoff notices
July 12, 2012
AM Reading: Jerry Brown blazes new furlough trail; PA workers fight drastic pay cuts; inside San Quentin
July 10, 2012
AM Reading: Poll shows voters divided on pension benefits; OR pension-for-pay deal; CO seasonal fire fighters seek health benefits
July 9, 2012
AM Reading: CA parks catch a temporary break; government jobs shrink; IA picks up state exec's condo closing costs
July 8, 2012
AM Reading: Good / Bad Jerry Brown; private prisons take a hit; end of CA public funding for state parks?
July 4, 2012
AM Reading: CA union concessions; CA lawmakers haggle over pension reform; NM payroll glitch; WI pension fund fine as is, study says
June 24, 2012
AM Reading: Jerry Brown's state workweek plan dies; CA a model for mismanagement, IN set for pension bump
June 22, 2012
AM Reading; Supreme Court's SEIU decision; Ore. workers may be asked waist size; ex-inmate sues NV for shackling during childbirth
June 21, 2012
AM Reading: Cutting California's retired annuitants; Kutcher's company sues DMV; embezzler keeps CalPERS pension
June 19, 2012
AM Reading: California's 'bad bet' dwarfs JPMorgan's; NM bans private email for public business; workers moving to 'Plywood Palace'
June 18, 2012
AM Reading: Knives out for Jerry Brown's tax measure; Napa State patient captured; public pension tension
June 14, 2012
AM Reading: Gut check for CA Democrats; state workers in and out of trouble; workers forced to buy newspapers
June 13, 2012
AM Reading: California's retired annuitants; CalPERS to raise health premiums, losses value; WI union mutiny fails; pepper spray for New Zealand fishery officers
June 10, 2012
AM Reading: Pension pressure on Jerry Brown; VT court: no leave accrual while on leave; interpreting Tuesday's votes
June 7, 2012
AM Reading: Key moment for CA public pensions; interpreting the WI recall
June 6, 2012
AM Reading: CA cities OK pension reforms; WI governor survives recall, woman slaps loser
June 5, 2012
Election Day Reading: The San Diego city pension measure
June 5, 2012
Election Day Reading: The San Jose city pension measure
June 3, 2012
AM Reading: Ex-Vernon official: Pension cut is 'elder abuse'; salary and symbolism; FL cracks down on double dipping
June 1, 2012
AM Reading: CA officeholders' pay cut; Jerry Brown's psychic income; impact when government stops collecting union dues
May 31, 2012
AM Reading: CA 'pensions-for-all' bill moves ahead; AL female inmate allege sexual abuse; NJ judge: State can withhold retiree COLAs
May 27, 2012
AM Reading: More Bay Bridge questions; KY workers fired for sex with inmate; WI recall a 'test run'
May 24, 2012
AM Reading: CA furloughs' hidden costs; government video games; pension funds' riskier bets
May 23, 2012
AM Reading: Jerry Brown's budget battles; security concerns at MO state hospital; DE pay raises?
May 21, 2012
AM Reading: Utah's 4-day workweek; free medical visits for OR workers; gambling feeds KS pensions
May 17, 2012
AM Reading: CA 'furloughs' versus '4-day workweeks'; CalPERS investments; states consider using drones
May 15, 2012
AM Reading: California's budget and furloughs redux; phone-sniffing dogs in AZ; federal pensions threatened
May 11, 2012
AM Reading: CalPERS considers employer contribution hike; AZ weakens workers' protections; TN loses government jobs
May 9, 2012
AM Reading: CA parks plan unveiled; OR 'zombie' plan; WI gubernatorial race rematch
May 7, 2012
AM Reading: CA Colleges cutting back; states' budgets improve; KY paycheck gimmick
May 4, 2012
AM Reading: Unions struggling; IL retirees blast health benefits proposal; AL Legislature says pensions can include OT; union criticizes NY outsourcing
May 4, 2012
AM Reading: Unions struggling; IL retirees blast health benefits proposal; AL Legislature says pensions can include OT; union criticizes NY outsourcing
May 2, 2012
AM Reading: CSU pay; CalPERS investments; KS state worker raises
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 26, 2012
AM Reading: Labor and crime victims unite; FL drug testing ruled unconstitutional; CO state worker preference bill dies
April 24, 2012
AM Reading: Government sues former CalPERS officials; Corrections' overhaul; KS state hospital crisis
April 22, 2012
AM Reading: CalPERS responds to computer criticism; Wisconsin gives bonuses; public retiree health costs rise
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 17, 2012
AM Reading: CalPERS' computer system; Nevada air time; Conn. longevity pay; safety worries, nepotism in California state hospitals
April 13, 2012
AM Reading: CA furlough lawsuit; Dems debate WI collective bargaining; states cut mental health services
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

The State Worker: Brown and Schwarzenegger -- who's been the tougher boss?By Jon Ortiz A wave of emails hit The State Worker's in-box after a Bee report on Monday noted that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's...
Reforming government step by stepA California think tank's multi-pronged ballot proposal draws opposition from labor, environmentalists and the governor's strateg...
Report: Pepper-spray incident at UC Davis was a result of 'systemic and ...Instead, they responded with such a lack of communication and decision-making that it represented "systemic and repeated failures&qu...
Editorial: UC Davis pepper spray debacle belongs to KatehiThe independent assessment of events leading up to the infamous Nov. 18 pepper-spraying incident at the University of California, Davis, ...
Arnold Schwarzenegger turns to his fans for the latest re-inventionBy David Siders At work on his autobiography, the former governor asked his league of Twitter followers and Facebook fans Wednesday what ...
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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
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April 5, 2012
AM Reading: Government's 'customers'; KS court furloughs; court declines to take up AZ domestic-partner benefits case
April 4, 2012
AM Reading: Pensions squeeze CA cities; civil service changes in TN and WA
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
AM Reading: Remembering Rex Babin
March 27, 2012
AM Reading: Democrats don't want budget cuts; OR pension check error, MA state payroll goes online

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia legislative Democrats balk at Jerry Brown's budget cuts
In a show of good faith one year ago, legislative Democrats slashed Medi-Cal, cut universities and reduced welfare grants to slice the state deficit 13 weeks before the constitutional deadline. But this year Democrats are refusing to go along with Gov. Jerry Brown's most controversial reductions, spurning his demand to have cuts in place by March. (Sacramento Bee)

CA: AM Alert: Shack up with a student, lose your pension
Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto will introduce her own pension legislation today with a bill aimed at cracking down on student-teacher relationships. Assembly Bill 1861 would eliminate pension and retiree benefits for teachers who have an inappropriate relationship with a student at the same school - even if the student is an adult. (Sacramento Bee)

Op-ed: Sam Blakeslee: Republicans back Jerry Brown's pension reforms; where are the Democrats?
There is a saying in the sales industry, "When you get a 'yes,' stop talking and take the order." Democrats in the state Legislature would do well to follow that axiom. (Mercury News)

US: States From Ohio to Florida Weigh Running Company Funds
Six U.S. states, led by Massachusetts and California, are taking steps to put public pension overseers in charge of retirement savings plans offered to nongovernment workers, according to an advocate of the idea. (Bloomberg)

March 15, 2012
AM Reading: Brown's taxing compromise; CalPERS' forecast; CalSTRS versus Micky Mouse; AZ 'cronyism'

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Personnel case takes on how the state handles hiring
In 2007, James Ward sold his San Diego-area dental practice and moved to Blythe, the remote desert town between Los Angeles and Phoenix. The reason for the dramatic switch: a job he took at Ironwood State Prison. (Sacramento Bee)

Jerry Brown changes his tax plan to address concerns of liberal allies
After a months-long feud with his most liberal allies, Gov. Jerry Brown compromised Wednesday to eliminate a rival tax initiative for the November ballot. (Sacramento Bee)

Skelton: Acrobat Brown does a flip on tax hike measure
Back in the day, when Gov. Jerry Brown would dazzle us with a flip-flop, he'd land on his feet spouting philosophy. (Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS cuts investment forecast by quarter-point
CalPERS is forcing state and local governments to pay more to support the giant pension fund - but will let them ease into it. The fund's governing board Wednesday approved a quarter-point drop in CalPERS' investment forecast, to 7.5 percent. (Sacramento Bee)

March 14, 2012
AM Reading: Teachers, dating and pensions; VT golden handshakes; NY pension debate

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: Teach a high school class, date a student - lose your pension?
Angered by a 41-year-old Modesto teacher who moved in with an 18-year-old student, a California lawmaker is crafting legislation that would strip teachers of their retirement benefits in such cases. (Sacramento Bee)

CalPERS OKs reduction in investment forecast, costing state extra $167 million per year
CalPERS gave final approval today to a quarter-point reduction in its investment forecast, but will look at softening the fiscal impact on government budgets. (Sacramento Bee)

VT:Retirement Program Proposed For State Hospital Employees
The Shumlin administration and the union representing Vermont state workers are in talks about a possible retirement incentive program for workers at the now-closed Vermont State Hospital. (Vermont Public Radio)

March 12, 2012
AM Reading: Pension math; RI considers lifting public office ban; FL drug-test bill goes to Gov. Rick Scott

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: Dan Walters: Two tales of pension accounting
Major corporations that still maintain traditional defined-benefit pension plans are asking Congress to lower their pension trust fund contributions because, they say, extraordinarily low interest rates force them to sock away too much. (Sacramento Bee)

RI: RI bill would let state workers hold public office
A bill winding its way through the Rhode Island legislature would end a 73-year-old ban on state employees running for public office or serving on a state employee grievances board. (AP / Boston Globe)

CA: Past pension boosts deferred costs
The recent loss of tens of billions of dollars from California's public pension funds may have raised awareness about the high cost of guaranteed benefits for public workers, but reform advocates say the unsustainable system has been years - or even decades - in the making. (AP / Sacramento Bee)

March 9, 2012
AM Reading: Napa hospital layoffs; sex-club shooting comp fraud case; ME good-faith bargaining dispute

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: Staff cuts planned at Napa State Hospital
The California Department of Mental Health has notified dozens of Napa State Hospital employees they may be laid off later this year, according to union representatives. (Napa Valley Register)

CA: Will state agencies derail local pension reforms?
While unions oppose key parts of Gov. Brown's 12-point pension reform plan in the Legislature, local officials say union allies are using state agencies to try to derail or undermine local pension reforms on the June ballot in San Jose and San Diego. (Calpensions)

CA: Workers' comp fraud case based on sex-club shooting goes to jury
Jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the workers' comp fraud conspiracy case against a state correctional officer and his wife over his shooting at a San Francisco sex club that he claimed was job-related. (Sacramento Bee)

March 8, 2012
AM Reading: San Jose's pension politics; CalPERS investment assumptions; IL state worker health insurance mess

Calif. city seeks to escape soaring pension costs (CBS News)

State lawmakers order San Jose pension audit
The state will audit San Jose's finances amid employee unions' accusations that city officials overstated the cost of the pension system to build support for a June ballot measure reducing retirement benefits. (Mercury News)

CalPERS urged to cut its annual profit forecast
CalPERS is considering making a significant cut in its investment forecast next week, which would likely force the state and local governments to increase their annual contributions to the big pension funds. (Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Messy rollout continues for CalPERS computer system
Well, here's another CalPERS computer gaffe story. (Sacramento Bee)

March 7, 2012
AM Reading: State worker retirements; FL employee pension hike overturned; NY pension plan losing steam

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: Fewer California state workers took pensions in 2011
Fewer state employees took their pensions in 2011, reversing a four-year trend that had seen more workers going into retirement. (Sacramento Bee)

CA: Viewpoints: Let's base public pension debate on facts, not made-up numbers
It would be nice to separate the wheat from the chaff in the debate over how to restructure public pensions. It is important to eliminate abuses and ensure that public pensions are fair to retirees and affordable to taxpayers. But it is equally important to key the debate on real facts and figures that accurately portray the public costs. (Sacramento Bee)

CA: Teachers union leads in record year of lobbying lawmakers
State Assemblyman Warren Furutani looked out over a sea of red -- protesting oil industry workers wearing scarlet T-shirts -- and saw trouble for his plan to raise $2.5 billion for universities with a tax on crude. Click here for chart. (Los Angeles Times)

March 5, 2012
AM Reading: Pros, cons of CA contracting; NY's single-member union; ME van-pool cuts 'betray an animus toward state workers'

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: State government contracting debate back at California's Capitol
The debate over whether government runs best with civil service workers or privately contracted help is re-igniting in the Capitol over legislation that, among other things, would give state workers first dibs whenever the state has work to do. (Sacramento Bee)

A Labor Force Faces the Ultimate in Downsizing: Herbert Jenkins Heads Detroit Union With a Single Member--Him
To dig out of a fiscal mess, the city of Detroit has reached tentative labor deals with the leadership of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the United Auto Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Then it had to win over Herbert Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins is president of the Assistant Supervisors of Street Maintenance and Construction Association, the union representing the leaders of Detroit's pothole-repair crews. He also is the only member of that collective-bargaining unit. (Wall Street Journal)

CA: Salary 'spiking' drains public pension funds, analysis finds
Approaching retirement, Ventura County Chief Executive Marty Robinson was earning $228,000 a year. To boost her pension, which would be based on her final salary, Robinson cashed out nearly $34,000 in unused vacation pay, an $11,000 bonus for having earned a graduate degree and more than $24,000 in extra pension benefits the county owed her. By the time she walked out the door last year, her pension was calculated at $272,000 a year -- for life. (Los Angeles Times)

March 4, 2012
AM Reading: CA Fish & Game president flap; WI retirees face pension cut; OH loves Arnold Schwarzenegger

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CA: Editorial: Self-inflicted wound for chief of wildlife board
Good judgment should be a prerequisite for any president of California's Fish and Game Commission. Californians are so passionate about issues involving hunting, fishing, wildlife and conservation that this commission needs a steady hand at the helm. Sadly, Daniel Richards continues to flunk that test, day after day. (Sacramento Bee)

WI: Retired state workers to see dip in pension funds
About 96 thousand retired public employees in Wisconsin may see their pension checks shrink by seven percent.The cut would hit them next May. (WSAU)

March 2, 2012
AM Reading: Apple and pension funds; Darrell Steinberg, Fish & Game president trade shots; NY pension reform debate shifts

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCA: Apple dividend would mean big bucks for CalPERS, CalSTRS
The run up in value of Apple Inc. stock has been good for California's largest pension funds. (Sacramento Business Journal)

CA: Steinberg: Fish & Game Commission head acted 'like a jackass'
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg joined the debate today over the embattled head of the state Fish and Game Commission's Idaho cougar hunt, blasting Dan Richards for acting "like a jackass." (Sacramento Bee)

CA: Fish and Game president blasts critics, says he ate mountain lion
The head of the California Fish and Game Commission, under fire for killing a mountain lion during a hunting trip in Idaho, blasted his critics Thursday as "environmental terrorists" and dismissed demands by Democratic state lawmakers for him to resign. (Los Angeles Times)

CA: Ogilvy wins $900,000 health care PR job
A tentative winner has been announced for a $900,000 public relations contract to help California implement federal health care reform: Sacramento's Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. (Sacramento Bee)

February 29, 2012
AM Reading: Lawmakers' hypocrisy; Stockton's path to bankruptcy; NY pension reform; FL legislators' insurance perk

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifDan Walters: California legislators show their hypocrisy over hunting issue
Dan Richards, who chairs the California Fish and Game Commission, is under fire in the Capitol because he killed a mountain lion in Idaho and posed with his trophy for a picture that was later published on a hunting publication website. Forty Democratic legislators signed a letter to Richards saying he should resign. "Your actions raise serious questions about whether you respect the laws of the people of California and whether you are fit to adequately enforce those laws," the lawmakers told Richards. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom later joined the chorus. So let's get this straight. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Pension costs are crushing local governments
Last week, Stanford's Institute for Economic Policy Research and California Common Sense released a report that confirmed what Californians have come to realize, yet many leaders still deny. From Stockton to San Diego, government pension costs are crushing local governments. (Sacramento Bee)

NV: Judge dismisses separation-of-powers lawsuit
A Carson City district judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a conservative think tank that challenged the constitutionality of public workers serving in the Legislature. (AP / Las Vegas Sun)

February 23, 2012
AM Reading: Republicans support Jerry Brown's pension plan; San Jose workers oppose pension change plan; new twist on private prisons

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: GOP backs Jerry Brown's plan on pensions
Last year, Republicans in the state Legislature rejected Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's offer to put public pension reform on a statewide ballot. On Wednesday, those same Republicans introduced a package of pension rollbacks for the November ballot written by ... Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. (Sacramento Bee)

UC Davis officials sued over pepper spraying
Three months after being pepper sprayed or allegedly roughed up by UC Davis campus police during an Occupy demonstration, 19 students and alumni Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit claiming that their free speech and assembly rights were violated in the controversial incident. (Los Angeles Times)

Finance chief Matosantos pleads no contest in drunken-driving case
California Finance Director Ana Matosantos pleaded no contest Tuesday to driving over the legal limit for alcohol last year in downtown Sacramento. (Sacramento Bee)

February 21, 2012
A.M. Reading: Super Bowl sick calls; Brown doesn't match with Gray; Caltrans SoCal snafu; pay raise news in ID, NC and WV

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCT: Prison guards backed off Super Bowl sick calls
Efforts to stop the annual Super Bowl flood of "sick" calls among state prison guards largely succeeded in stopping staff shortages and statewide inmate lockdowns while the New York Giants clashed with the New England Patriots. But unionized guards have now called illegal procedure, filing about 100 grievances against Department of Correction Commissioner Leo C. Arnone for allegedly changing work rules and requiring doctor's notes for those who called in sick. (Connecticut Post)

Meg Whitman contributes $100,000 to Mitt Romney's Super PAC
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman pulled out her checkbook last month to boost her former boss Mitt Romney's presidential bid. (Sacramento Bee)

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown and Gray Davis a study in contrasts
If Californians believed that electing Democrat Jerry Brown as governor would mean a big break with Republican predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger, they must be disappointed. (Sacramento Bee)

February 17, 2012
A.M. Reading: State workers vouch for Scott Walker plan; CalPERS fires warning shot; ME proposal ends public pensions for criminals; IN workers lose back-pay decision

MI: Scott Walker Allies Launch Ad Campaign
In advance of a near certain recall election, a national ally of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is taking to the airwaves with a new TV ad aimed at bolstering the image of Walker's controversial budget repair law, and features state workers touting the measure's reforms.(National Journal)

Editorial: Our View: Public Employees Bill of Rights Act all wrong
Considering the state of this state and the condition of the world, the so-called Public Employees Bill of Rights Act might be mistaken for satire. The problem is, Assembly Bill 1655, is serious. (Appeal Democrat)

The State Worker: Pension measure autopsy shows multiple causes of death
We're in the ballot initiative wing of the California Political Causes Morgue. On the table, two public pension reform plans that died last week. Scalpel, please. (Sacramento Bee)

Calpers to Buyout Funds: Give Up Carried Interest
California Public Employees' Retirement System's investment chief urged private-equity industry executives to abandon the fight to preserve a lucrative tax break on much of their income or "risk becoming the robber barons of the 21st century." (Wall Street Journal)

February 15, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalPERS' investment forecast; ME pension reform lawsuit; TX double dippers; AZ bill makes firings easier

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalPERS will look again at adjusting forecast
CalPERS is going to look again at adjusting its investment forecast, a move that could increase taxpayer contributions while ramping up the political heat on public pension funds in California. (Sacramento Bee)

OR: State wellness plan penalties up for consideration
The Public Employees' Benefit Board put itself ahead of the curve -- but not too far ahead -- when it decided to penalize state workers who don't participate in its new wellness program, experts say. (Statesman Journal)

California Assembly decision to fight budget release cost nearly $200,000
The California Assembly spent nearly $200,000 in public funds fighting against release of member-by-member budgets allocating tens of millions in public funds, records show. (Sacramento Bee)

February 13, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA contract talks; OK: six years, no raises; SD bonuses; MT health clinic for state workers

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifState employee unions aren't counting on generous contracts from Democrat Jerry Brown
Contract talks kicking off this month between the state and four employee unions present Gov. Jerry Brown with a political dilemma: How does he deal fairly with his key labor constituency without exposing himself to charges he's kowtowing to them? (Sacramento Bee)

California's mobile hospitals are running out of money and time
In a cool, 18,000-square-foot warehouse tucked in an industrial Sacramento-area neighborhood sits millions of dollars in equipment California leaders hope never to use. (Sacramento Bee)

While GOP leaders call for smaller government, Okla. state workers near 6 years since pay hike
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jess Callahan, a state social worker who helps provide services to the elderly, blind and disabled in Choctaw County, hasn't seen a pay raise since 2006, and he's not alone. (AP/ The Republic)

In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law's impact
RACINE, Wisconsin -- James Ladwig recently took over the job of Racine County executive. He was sworn in last April, not long after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a controversial bill curtailing the bargaining rights of state and local workers. So with the new job, Ladwig got a new set of rules for governing his county. (Stateline)

February 9, 2012
A.M. Reading: Pension reform effort suspended; SD rethinks collective bargaining; SC's pay and pension idea

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifDemocrats gear up to fight part-time Legislature measure
A Democratic political strategist and a former Democratic assemblyman will help lead opposition to a proposed ballot initiative that would reduce California's Legislature to part-time. (Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Some California unions drop furlough cases; two soldier on
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association quietly dropped two furlough lawsuits last week, one in Alameda Superior Court and the other a federal case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Sacramento Bee)

Sick pay cashouts for NJ public workers the talk of the day
Emotions ran high Wednesday at a conference of New Jersey mayors, some of whom demanded stepped-up state assistance in controlling municipal budgets, with others being lashed by a legislator for creating massive taxpayer liabilities to public workers for unused sick pay. (Asbury Park Press)

Group suspends California public pension reform ballot effort
The cause of pension reform in California took a significant body shot Wednesday when a group hoping to put an overhaul measure before voters this year suspended its campaign. (Sacramento Bee)

February 7, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA lawmaker pay hike; secret tax inspection decision in NY; AK pensions could change; lawmaker retirements

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifBudgets were tight, but some California lawmakers got extra money last year
With California billions behind on its budget and public services shrinking, the Assembly collectively tightened its belt last year - but not all of its members did. (Sacramento Bee)

NY: Drawing Fire, Deal Gives Agency Staff Power to See State Workers' Tax Files
ALBANY -- Lawmakers and labor unions on Monday pointedly criticized a secret decision by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration to greatly expand the state inspector general's access to tax returns filed by state employees. (New York Times)

Initiative would make Legislature part time, slash its pay
A proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) probably won't make her many friends among her colleagues. She wants to reduce the Legislature to part-time status and cut its pay from $95,000 annually to $1,500 a month. (Los Angeles Times)

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown's tax plan takes a double hit
Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign to balance the state budget with new income and sales taxes took a double hit Monday. (Sacramento Bee)

February 5, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA legislators' cars sold; EDD worker arrested; NC layoffs hit women, minorities hardest

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifLawmakers' cars going, going ... gone!
The Capitol parking garage should have some extra spaces this spring. The Legislature has spent the last two months selling cars it had previously purchased for lawmakers, a move mandated by the California Citizens Compensation Commission's decision to cut the car perk legislators have enjoyed for decades. (Sacramento Bee)

See the sale prices for California legislators' state cars
The state Legislature has taken a loss of more than $1 million on the sale of dozens of cars it had purchased for legislators over the years. (Sacramento Bee)

CA: Three arrested in unemployment insurance scheme
Federal authorities have arrested three Inland residents in connection with a scheme to issue unemployment checks to people who did not qualify for benefits, federal authorities said Thursday in a statement. (Press-Enterprise)

High-speed rail tapped state funds for unusual lobbying contract
In an extremely unusual use of taxpayer money, the leaders behind California's $99 billion high-speed train quietly hired a lobbyist to sway the Legislature -- the same politicians who appointed them to build the project in the first place. (Mercury News)

February 2, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA state payroll; federal pay freeze; PA unions pitch budget cut alternatives

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia government payroll grew by $500 million in 2011 as furloughs eased
State government payroll increased by half a billion dollars last year, even as California cut thousands of state worker jobs, according to a Bee analysis of new data from the Controller's Office. (Sacramento Bee)

OR: Lawmakers consider supervisor ratio
A bill intended to accelerate middle management reductions in Oregon state government got off to a rocky start before skeptical legislators Wednesday. (Statesman Journal)

The State Worker: How hard is it to fire a state worker?
Caltrans' recent decision to "unfire" an employee who admitted falsifying structural tests and let him retire may leave you wondering, How hard is it to fire a state worker? (Sacramento Bee)

February 1, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalSTRS' strain; ME gun bill; OR state email uproar; AZ bill takes on public unions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalSTRS may cut forecast again
CalSTRS is thinking of cutting its investment forecast for the second time in barely a year, a move that acknowledges the increased financial strain on the pension fund. (Sacramento Bee)

John Chiang says California's cash will dry up if officials don't act
California will run out of cash by early March if the state does not borrow more money and delay some payments, the state's cash manager warned Tuesday. (Sacramento Bee)

Maine Bill Would Allow Public Employees to Bring Guns to Work
Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state employees to bring guns to work. The measure would require that gun owners have a concealed weapons permit and keep firearms locked and out of sight in their vehicles, according to Capitol News Service. (MPBN)

January 30, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA labor's 'high-stakes battle'; CalPERS' 'headwind; NY, TN propose civil service changes

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifHigh-stakes labor battle coming to California
SACRAMENTO -- The raging battle over the political and economic clout of labor unions is headed west to California. The state's powerful labor groups have anxiously witnessed union rights and benefits being gutted in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Now, unions in California are girding for an all-out war over a ballot initiative that would curb their ability to raise political cash. (Mercury News)

Jerry Brown says cap-and-trade fees will fund high-speed rail
Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview airing in Los Angeles today that California's high-speed rail project will cost far less than the state's current estimate of nearly $100 billion and that environmental fees paid by carbon producers will be a source of funding. ... Brown has also proposed changes to reduce pension costs, and he suggested he may take that measure to the ballot, too, if the Legislature does not act. (Sacramento Bee)

NY: Cuomo Seeks Civil Service Law Changes
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quietly seeking more leeway to hire and transfer state employees outside of a competitive process, a move unions say would weaken civil service rules designed to prevent patronage. (Wall Street Journal)

January 27, 2012
A.M. Reading: 'Unfiring' at Caltrans; SD debates collective bargaining; AL pension fund's problems

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEditorial: Caltrans sidesteps accountability - again
This week's settlement between Caltrans and Duane Wiles is disturbing on several levels. The deal, which essentially "unfires" a technician who falsified safety tests and allows him to resign, shows how difficult it can be to dismiss state employees, no matter how badly they violate the public trust. (Sacramento Bee)

Interim director: PDC is not closing
The possible closure of the Porterville Developmental Center, potential layoffs, the status of the secure treatment area and the center's budget were the big topics of a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon inside the facility's Carl F. Broderick Auditorium. (Porterville Recorder)

Editorial: State should put an end to plum patronage boards
To save money and make government more efficient, Gov. Jerry Brown, like his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, proposes to eliminate dozens of state boards and commissions that have outlived their usefulness. (Sacramento Bee)

January 26, 2012
A.M. Reading: CCPOA's leave settlement; OR wellness program; CA realignment's impact; FL state worker drug test bill

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: California settles up -- interest free -- with prison guards union
California's prison officers union is getting a loan from taxpayers - interest-free - to settle a multimillion-dollar debt it owes the state. (Sacramento Bee)

Local AFSCME union chapter at odds with leaders
State workers in an Oregon AFSCME local are staging a protest vote about a controversial new wellness program that, if successful, will hit their union square in the pocketbook. (Statesman Journal)

Public Pensions Increase Private-Equity Investments
Large public pension plans are pouring more money into private-equity funds, deepening ties between government workers and an industry currently under the harsh glare of U.S. presidential politics. (Wall Street Journal)

Atherton Interim City Manager John Danielson forced to resign Friday
Atherton Interim City Manager John Danielson will have to step down Friday because the California Public Employees' Retirement System rejected the town's request to extend his contract one more year while it searches for a replacement. (Mercury News)

January 25, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA pension hearing; cities consider dumping CalPERS; CT debates overtime and pensions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalSTRS reports 2.3 percent earnings on investments in 2011
CalSTRS announced meager investment gains for 2011 - and repeated its plea to the Legislature for help. (Sacramento Bee)

San Jose council moves to end its pensions
San Jose city leaders took initial steps Tuesday toward ending their own state-run pension plan as they continue seeking workforce retirement concessions. (Mercury News)

Editorial: Lawmakers spin their wheels on pension reform
A joint Senate/Assembly conference committee will hold its third (ho-hum) informational hearing today on the 12-point pension reform plan that Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled with such fanfare last October. Don't expect anything to come of it. So far, a lot of talk has emerged but no pension bill. Efforts to substantially reduce state pension obligations are a sham in this Legislature, and most people who work in the Capitol know that. (Sacramento Bee)

GOP Senators: Take Overtime Out Of Pension Calculations
Two Republican state senators called Tuesday for passage of a bill this year to take pensions for future state employees out of union negotiations and to stop employees' widespread practice of "padding" of their pensions with heavy overtime as they prepare to retire. (Hartford Courant)

January 24, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalPERS' investments; CA cities resist defined benefit pensions; public pension reform; NY state overtime

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalPERS reports just small gain in 2011
CalPERS, still struggling to recover from the market crash of 2008, said Monday it earned a return of just 1.1 percent on its investments in 2011. That was a fraction of the 12.5 percent it earned in 2010 and underscored the challenges facing CalPERS amid cries from some elected officials to curb the cost of public pensions in California. (Sacramento Bee)

3 Calif. municipalities sidestep pension debate
While most of the state's roughly 480 cities and towns are entangled in a heated debate about future pension costs, three small cities in Contra Costa County are quietly sitting on the sidelines. (California Watch)

Issue of the week: Pensions
THE ISSUE: On Wednesday, a Senate-Assembly conference committee will convene to consider part of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce state pension costs. Brown wants to offer hybrid plans to new state employees that would include traditional defined-benefit pensions and 401(k)-style retirement funds. Last week, we asked readers: Should lawmakers reduce pension costs by offering hybrid plans to new state workers? Does that change go too far? Or should it be more far-reaching? (Sacramento Bee)

Dan Walters: California civil service unions in denial on pension costs
Whenever someone suggests that California's public employee pension systems need reform, civil service unions react dismissively, often with attacks on the credentials or even the morals of critics. (Sacramento Bee)

January 21, 2012
A.M. Reading: Whistle-blower bill; high-speed rail; OR pension privacy bill; WI 'recall cam'

Editorial: Assembly fumbles whistle-blower bill
Is it any wonder why Californians hold the Legislature in such low regard? (Sacramento Bee)

UCSF seeks to ease ties with UC

Unlike the other nine campuses of the University of California, UCSF enrolls no undergraduates, offers no world history classes and gets so much money from government grants that it barely depends on the tuition its students pay to attend the medical school on a windy San Francisco hill. Yet UCSF is attached like Velcro to the other campuses, required to spend millions of dollars to help support them and send officials to countless meetings where students protest rising tuition and regents debate educational policy. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Dan Morain: Brown buys a risky ticket on high-speed rail
You have to hand it to Jerry Brown. He's not shrinking from taking a big risk on high-speed rail. (Sacramento Bee)

January 19, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's reorg and iPhones; CalPERS' $250m loss; NH bill bans perfume; Congress's pension costs

Hat tip to blog users J, B and M for their unwavering dedication to flagging news and editorials for our morning roundups.

The State Worker: Will Jerry Brown's reorg plan fix California's bugs?
To understand how Gov. Jerry Brown wants to reorganize government, just look at an iPhone. (Sacramento Bee)

CalPERS discloses $250 million realty loss
CalPERS took a $250 million loss on a massive land deal as it continues to reposition its battered real estate portfolio, the pension fund said Wednesday. (Sacramento Bee)

Op-ed: Public unions: What's the big deal?
On Jan. 17, 1962, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, bringing collective bargaining rights to most federal workers for the first time. ... For 20 years after Kennedy's order, public sector union rights were not controversial. To the contrary, they enjoyed bipartisan support -- even from conservatism's leading light, Ronald Reagan. Reagan, as governor of California, presided over the extension of collective bargaining rights to state and local workers in 1968. (Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS Pressures Apple on Director Elections (Market Watch / Wall Street Journal)

January 17, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's tax measure typo; AL worker has 286 parking tickets; Bloomberg's pension reform strategy

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJerry Brown commits typo, forced to re-file tax initiative
Gov. Jerry Brown is taking a mulligan, tripped up by a typographical error and forced to re-file his ballot initiative to raise taxes. The Democratic governor on Friday filed paperwork with the state for "The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012- ver. 2." The measure is identical to one Brown filed in December, the governor said in a filing with the attorney general's office, "except that we have corrected a typographical error that resulted in two numbers being transposed." (Sacramento Bee)

Colorado governor calls for privatization of state workers comp insurer Pinnacol
DENVER--Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for the privatization of Pinnacol Assurance during his State of the State address Thursday, saying the proposed move could support state businesses and schools. Denver-based Pinnacol submitted a proposal to the state in November that would restructure Colorado's workers compensation insurer of last resort into a mutual insurer. The company currently is classified as a state "political subdivision." (Business Insurance)

FPPC sues United States Postal Service over records request
The state political watchdog agency has delivered a lawsuit to the United States Postal Service in an ongoing dispute over public records. (Sacramento Bee)

January 13, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalPERS' versus ratings firms; double-dipping; VA pension contributions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJudge refuses to toss CalPERS suit against Moody's, S&P
CalPERS has won the right to pursue a $1 billion lawsuit against two Wall Street heavyweights, beating back their efforts to have the case thrown out of court. (Sacramento Bee)

The depressing toll of the Great Recession: Mental health problems mount nationwide while budgets for treatment and care are shrinking
In late 2009, as the unemployment rate in San Joaquin County, California, reached 18 percent and one in twelve homes were being foreclosed, two high school students in the town of Ripon, population 15,000, committed suicide within two months of each other. Over the next eighteen months, sixteen more teenagers around the county took their own lives, a not-uncommon occurrence that public health researchers refer to as "suicide contagion." Years of declining budgets had cut the number of counselors, nurses and psychologists in county schools, impairing the ability of individual districts to handle the needs of grieving students, parents and communities on their own. So school officials in cities like Ripon, Stockton, Lodi and Linden turned to each other for help. (Salon)

Editorial: Double-dipping in pensions needs to sunset
Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson assumed his new job with ambitions of attacting economic development and shoring up the county's shaky financial house. We hope he achieves those goals, but it won't be easy, given his emerging status as a poster child for what is wrong with the pension system for governmental managers and public employees in California. Hudson earns more than a quarter-million dollars a year as Sacramento's CEO, $258,000 plus benefits, to be precise. At the same time, he collects a sizable public pension. (Sacramento Bee)

January 12, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA tech struggle; a pension resolution; FL prison closures

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Calfornia government struggles with more tech problems
California's biggest IT project - one that's supposed to help state government better manage its dollars - has money and staffing problems. (Sacramento Bee)

Fired Caltrans manager denies wrongdoing, will seek reinstatement
Brian Liebich, the fired manager of the state Department of Transportation unit that tested the foundation of the new Bay Bridge, has denied any wrongdoing and says he has been made a scapegoat. (Sacramento Bee)

S&P, Moody's Must Face Calpers Lawsuit Over Ratings, Judge Rules
Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service Inc. must face California Public Employees' Retirement System's $1 billion lawsuit over their ratings of structured investment vehicles, a judge said. (Bloomberg)

January 11, 2012
A.M. Reading: Pension campaign's new phase; state workers go to US Supreme Court; Okla. bill strips job protections

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifPension overhaul backers need campaign cash, bash Kamala Harris
The effort to place a public pension overhaul before California voters this November has moved into a new and challenging phase. (Sacramento Bee)

Maryland man's lawsuit over sick leave is being considered by the US Supreme Court
WASHINGTON -- A man who sued the state of Maryland after allegedly being fired for trying to take a 10-day medical leave from his state job will have his case heard Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the outcome could affect whether state workers nationwide can sue in similar situations. (AP/Washington Post)

US Supreme Court hears California union political spending case
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case about political spending by the union that represents California state workers. (KPCC)

January 9, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's 'bizarrely low' budget forecast; union battlegrounds; New York's retirement bottleneck

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEconomist says Jerry Brown's budget underestimates revenue
At least one prominent economist says Gov. Jerry Brown is underestimating the strength of the recovery in his new budget proposal. Chris Thornberg, a Los Angeles consultant who advises State Controller John Chiang, said today he believes tax revenue in the upcoming fiscal year could top Brown's forecast by around $4 billion. Thornberg, head of Beacon Economics, called the governor's forecast "bizarrely low." (Sacramento Bee)

Kitzhaber 3.0: One year into third term, Oregon's governor says he has 'better grasp' of the job
SALEM -- Republicans braced for another four years battling a governor notoriously known as "Dr. No" when Democrat John Kitzhaber won election to a history-making third term. But as Kitzhaber marks his first anniversary back in office, Republicans appear to be his biggest fans. If there's any frustration with Kitzhaber, it's from Democrats and traditional allies. (Oregonian)

Inmate calls Colorado Mental Health Institute treatment a Catch-22
In 1989, Gary Hilton feigned mental illness so he could go to the Colorado Mental Health Institute instead of prison. Today, he's the one crying foul, claiming the state hospital moved him to a high-security ward for his refusal to disclose past crimes and inappropriately warned his female friend that he is a serial killer. (Denver Post)

January 5, 2012
A.M. Reading: Pension reform road map; Atascadero workers attacked; free Cornhusker football tickets targeted

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Pension reform debate is about to heat up
The next few weeks will draw the lines more sharply in the 2012 debate over public employee pensions. (Sacramento Bee)

3 more Atascadero State Hospital employees attacked by patients
Patients have attacked three employees at Atascadero State Hospital since Friday, the hospital confirmed Wednesday. (San Luis Obispo Tribune)

Texas' failure to fund mental health treatment leaves hundreds stranded in jails around the state
Nearly four years ago, "Sam's" paranoia had grown so intense that he believed spies followed him in the shadows everywhere he went. His house, car, motorcycle, workplace, were all bugged, he believed. "I was in a very bad place, psychologically," said Sam, who asked that his name not be used for this story, by phone from the Kerrville State Hospital last month. "I thought everyone was after me." (Current)

January 4, 2012
A.M. Reading: Union website hacked; SD bonuses proposed; Costa Mesa leaders hike their CalPERS contributions

Daugaard Proposes Bonus for South Dakota State Workers
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, talks with Bloomberg's Amanda J. Crawford about the state's budget and his proposal to give across-the-board bonuses for state workers. As governors in some states continue to wage war on public employee unions, cost cutting followed by higher-than-expected revenue has officials in South Dakota and other states looking to spend the first surplus dollars in years. (Bloomberg)

Wellness program approved despite concerns
An Oregon labor relations board has sided with the state regarding a controversial state workers wellness program, ruling that the measure is not subject to union negotiations. (Statesman Journal)

Rival California peace officers union slams handling of website hacking
A shadowy computer hacking group's recent seizure of peace officers' personal information from a union website prompted a call Tuesday for a legislative investigation. (Sacramento Bee)

January 3, 2012
A.M. Reading: Lawsuit against former CalPERS official can proceed; prisoner escapes; NJ leave cashouts

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifRuling clears way for fraud suit against former CalPERS official
Reporting from Sacramento -- A federal judge has approved a plan to liquidate the estate of Alfred J.R. Villalobos, former board member of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the state's biggest public pension fund. (Los Angeles Times)

PERS allowed to recoup $156 million
The Oregon Supreme Court Friday upheld two key decisions regarding Public Employees Retirement System "window retirees," effectively ending years of pension litigation. The court stood by its earlier decision in the Robinson case, which upheld PERS' right to recoup an estimated $156 million in overpayments from 28,042 people who retired from public service between April 2000 and April 2004. (Statesman Journal)

Open Forum: California pension system not in crisis
Despite those who are all-too-willing to play Chicken Little, the sky is not falling on the California pension system. (San Francisco Chronicle)

December 30, 2011
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's budget win; Texas paychecks; NY pensions

California Supreme Court hands Gov. Brown a win on redevelopment
California redevelopment agencies lost their battle for survival Thursday after the state Supreme Court ruled lawmakers legally eliminated the local offices that subsidize construction in blighted areas, such as Sacramento's downtown railyard and K Street corridor. (Sacramento Bee)

State, UT employees to see smaller paychecks in January due to delayed deal in Congress
Thousands of state workers and University of Texas employees will see slightly smaller paychecks next month because Congress took so long to extend the 2 percent payroll tax cut. (Austin American-Statesman)

Arraignment set for 2 fmr. pool workers
FALL RIVER, MASS. - An arraignment date has been set for two former Massachusetts state workers charged in the death of a woman in a local pool. (WPRI)

Op-ed: Cuomo's challenge
Gov. Cuomo recently said public-pension reform would be his top goal for 2012 -- and then backtracked. But ignoring this crisis for another year simply isn't an option; it won't go away. (New York Post)

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December 29, 2011
A.M. Reading: California Assembly pay hikes; David Crane's ouster from UC Regents; Napa hospital protests continue

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifMore than 250 Assembly employees get pay hikes this month
More than 250 Assembly employees received pay hikes this month under the sweeping authorization granted by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez recently for aides whose pay had not risen in three years. (Sacramento Bee)

Gov. Jerry Brown looks ahead to 2012
Sitting on a hard wood bench for an hour listening to Gov. Jerry Brown field questions, it's often difficult to tell whether he's articulating a conviction, hiding something or sorting out his thoughts as he speaks. (Los Angeles Times)

UC regent Crane ousted for telling hard truths
David Crane is not the most popular man in Sacramento. In fact, his determination to tell legislators what they don't want to hear - yet need to hear - is about to cost him his position as a University of California regent. (San Francisco Chronicle)

December 28, 2011
A.M. Reading: Texas exodus; Jerry Brown's grade; federal government pay; 'air time' trends; 'mortician with a badge'

Mass Exodus of State Workers Begins
HOUSTON - From a never ending line that snakes out of the Department of Motor Vehicles to a steady stream of children walking into Protective Services, state workers have their hands full in Texas. (

Jerry Brown predicts tough budget year, says he 'passed' first year in office
Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he expects the first half of the new year to be dominated again by California's budget problems, as he proposes more spending cuts and tries to clear the November ballot of tax measures that might compete with his. (Sacramento Bee)

Federal workers starting at much higher pay than in past
Newly hired federal workers are starting at much higher salaries than those who did the same jobs in the past, a lift that has elevated the salaries of scientists and custodians alike. (USA Today)

LAO: Ballot proposals to cut California government pension costs may wind up increasing them
Two ballot proposals aimed at cutting government pension costs could wind up increasing them, are fraught with legal and fiscal uncertainty and would put pressure on governments to increase public employee pay, according to new analyses of the measures. (Sacramento Bee)

December 27, 2011
A,M. Reading: Pension numbers; business lobby's power; next pension change in RI

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifMentally ill flood ERs as states cut services
CHICAGO/NEW YORK -- On a recent shift at a Chicago emergency department, Dr. William Sullivan treated a newly homeless patient who was threatening to kill himself. "He had been homeless for about two weeks. He hadn't showered or eaten a lot. He asked if we had a meal tray," said Sullivan, a physician at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago and a past president of the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians. Sullivan said the man kept repeating that he wanted to kill himself. "It seemed almost as if he was interested in being admitted." Across the country, doctors like Sullivan are facing a spike in psychiatric emergencies - attempted suicide, severe depression, psychosis - as states slash mental health services and the country's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression takes its toll. (Reuters/

Viewpoints: Pensions need to be fixed, but not gutted
It's no secret problems plague California's public pension system. Serious problems. Critics like Joe Nation, operating nowadays from his Wall Street-supported think tank at Stanford University, want everyone to focus on pension funds' investment return assumptions as a big part of the problem. You could see that in his recent op-ed in The Bee, "Pension plans should assume realistic returns" (Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: Pension numbers need to be nailed
When California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer dropped by The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board last week to talk about public employee pensions, he said he didn't have "settled, crisp views" on pension reform. That statement surprised everyone in the room.After all, Lockyer is one of the state's chief financial officers, a man who's been sitting on the boards of the state's two biggest public pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the State Teachers' Retirement System, for five years now. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Brown must put price tag on pension reform
A few days back, when Gov. Jerry Brown talked about his trigger cuts and tax increases, he repeated his assertion that without credible pension reform passed this year by the Legislature's Democratic majority, voters won't be as likely to pass the tax increases he so desperately wants. Which raises the question: What is credible pension reform? (Sacramento Bee)

December 23, 2011
A.M. Reading: Paycheck protection; NJ unions reach contracts; Russian bureaucrats

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifDan Morain: 'Reform' initiative wears a soiled white hat
The latest initiative to qualify for the 2012 ballot is thick with the earnest rhetoric of white-hat-wearing good government reformers. It's also dripping with cynicism. ... The initiative is a remake of so-called "paycheck protection" measures rejected by voters in 1998 and 2005. While those propositions were direct attacks on labor's political fundraising, the new version tries to be clever, purporting to restrict corporate money as well. In fact, it would gut only one side's ability to play in politics - organized labor. (Sacramento Bee)

Pension plans look toward rate of return
Nearly every state has cut public pension benefits for new workers in the last three years, with an emphasis on reducing the money the states will owe to employees when they retire. (

Montclair council votes to continue retirement contribution by firefighters
MONTCLAIR - The Montclair City Council decided 3 to 1 Wednesday night to require members of the Montclair Fire Fighters Association to continue their 6 percent individual contribution toward their retirement fund. Negotiators for the city and the association (MFFA) had been at an impasse since February. (Contra Costa Times)

December 22, 2011
A.M. Reading: CA state workers' tax hike; RI pension 'math'; MD revolving door

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: California employees will pay higher payroll tax on next check
Here's one more thing to blame on Congress. Although the battle over extending a Social Security payroll tax reduction continues in Washington, D.C., the matter has already been settled for California state workers: They'll have more money withheld from their checks next month, no matter what. (Sacramento Bee)

2 former state workers to face endangerment charges in death of woman in Fall River pool
BOSTON -- Two former state workers will be charged in connection with the death of a woman whose body was found two days after she drowned in a murky Massachusetts swimming pool, a prosecutor announced Wednesday. (Washington Post)

RI's Treasurer: Focus On the Math, Not the Politics
While politics on the national scene are a continual show of gridlock, politics, and fingerpointing as the economy struggles, the state of Rhode Island managed to cut its pension liabilities and save taxpayers $4 billion. (CNBC)

December 21, 2011
A.M. Reading: CA Lottery director named; CA hospital assaults; AZ cashouts; OR retirements soar

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJerry Brown names lottery director, faces vacancies on commission
Gov. Jerry Brown has named a former business consultant as director of the California Lottery.Robert O'Neill, a 60-year-old former executive with the global audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP, will oversee an agency with about $3 billion in game sales each year. It provides about $1 billion to schools. (Sacramento Bee)

Gov. Christie signs bill that would delay closing of Vineland Developmental Center
Gov. Chris Christie today signed a bill creating a special task force whose special review duties would at least temporarily delay the closing of the Vineland Developmental Center. (Press of Atlantic City)

Outgoing CalPERS Board Member Criticizes Fund Earnings
During the last decade, investment earnings at the largest public pension fund in the United States have been below the median among institutional investors. In response to Wilshire's quarterly earnings report showing below-median earnings by the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the fund's outgoing board member, Lou Moret, told "We are glossing over this, and it looks horrible." (

December 20, 2011
A.M. Reading: RI charity suffers for pension change support; CA parks director under siege; OR and smoking, guns

Rhode Island Charities Paying For Supporting Pension Reform (ABC 6)

California's state park managers ask Jerry Brown to replace parks director
The managers who operate California's state parks say they have lost faith in their leader, and are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a replacement. (Sacramento Bee)

Kasich discovers perks and perils of state plane travel
For many governors, the convenience of having a state plane at their disposal outweighs the political risk of looking a little extravagant to their voters. That seems to be the case for Ohio's John Kasich, who, as a candidate, criticized his predecessor for overusing state planes. The Columbus Dispatch reviewed Kasich's travel on public aircraft through this past August, in his first eight months in office, and found that Kasich racked up double the expenses for flying on state planes that his predecessor had during all of 2010. (

December 19, 2011
A.M. Reading: Sacramento pay cuts and pay increases; states slash payrolls; OR officials' travel spending; NM looks a retiree benefits change

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifSacramento region governments cut from the bottom while adding to the top
Several local cities sliced their payrolls through layoffs last year by cutting those who made the least. And they ended up paying more employees six-figure salaries. (The Sacramento Bee)

AP data: States shed thousands of public employees
State governments across the country have cut more than 80,000 jobs since the beginning of the recession, reflecting steep drops in tax revenue and providing a drag on the economies in many parts of the country, the Associated Press has found. (AP / The Boston Globe)

Perry "Retires" to Boost Pension Pay
Rick Perry has done something his opponents have been hoping he'd do for years: retire. But it's not what the governor's detractors had in mind. (The Texas Tribune)

December 16, 2011
A.M. Reading: Caltrans worker appeals firing -- again; TX reduces backlog; NE looks at ending child welfare privatization

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifFired Caltrans worker had been terminated before
The Caltrans worker fired last month after admitting that he falsified structural integrity test reports was booted from state service before, but a state board overturned that firing after determining it resulted from "a one-time lapse in judgment." Now Duane Wiles is appealing his latest firing to the same State Personnel Board that reinstated him nearly 12 years ago after he was accused of misusing his state credit card and making personal calls on a state cellphone. (Sacramento Bee)

Overcoming a backlog: How Texas conquered a mountain of food stamps applications
AUSTIN, Texas -- Two years ago, the 316 offices in Texas where people go to sign up for food stamps were the very image of a government backlog. Long lines of frustrated people, many of them hungry, snaked through dingy spaces designed to handle much smaller crowds. The back offices weren't much better. Desks of state employees were littered with piles of applications -- in boxes under workers' desks and stacked on top of them -- that hadn't yet been entered into the state's computer systems. Part 3 in a series. (Stateline)

Harassment claim against legislator settled in secret, records show
The state Senate secretly paid $120,000 to settle a claim by a legislative aide that she was sexually harassed by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), according to her attorney and government documents released this week. (Los Angeles Times)

December 15, 2011
A.M. Reading: CalPERS computer system; Mich. workers get refund; Miss. could freeze retiree COLAs

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: CalPERS computer troubles linger
CalPERS just put another few million bucks into a new half-billion-dollar computer hardware and software system that launched late, went way over budget - and still isn't quite right. (Sacramento Bee)

More student unrest likely, California college officials tell legislative panel
One month after the pepper-spraying of student protesters at the University of California, Davis, officials are struggling with how to move forward, even as they prepare for the possibility of new protests and building takeovers when students return next month. (Sacramento Bee)

Fearing Reform, Teachers Retire Early
... Sally Schuler is retiring after 32 years of teaching in Olmsted Falls southwest of Cleveland. "I didn't want to do it but I did." Schuler says that--because of proposed changes to the teacher pension system, it makes no financial sense for her to keep working. (

December 14, 2011
A.M. Reading: UC executive pay; pension cuts' front-end cost; Oregon hiring freeze

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifViewpoints: UC, CSU leaders show a tin ear on executive salaries
... To put it bluntly, our public universities in California are screwing up. They are either completely tone deaf or incredibly insensitive. (Sacramento Bee)

California overhauls mental health department
alifornia has begun transitioning its mental health services program to concentrate care on the most serious patients residing in state mental hospitals and prisons, but the cost-cutting move is raising concerns about patient care from state workers. (AP / Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: Pension reform
A recommendation to convert the state employee retirement system to a 401(k) plan seems like a reasonable move, but state officials need to realize that the pensions currently guaranteed by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System are a significant benefit for state employees. If the state is going to make its retirement plan more like those offered by private businesses, it also may have to provide salaries and other benefits that make state jobs more competitive with those offered in the private sector. (Lawrence Journal-World)

December 12, 2011
A.M. Reading: 'Daily Show' in FL; CA gift rules; WV considers retiree benefit caps

'Daily Show' asks Scott to pee in cup WPTV News)

Penn State scandal spurs California legislation
As former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's preliminary hearing on sex abuse charges begins this week, California lawmakers are rushing to introduce legislation aimed at preventing similar scandals here. (Los Angeles Times)

December 9, 2011
A.M. Reading: Folsom prison riot investigation; expanding safety pensions; lawmakers 'pander' to unions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifState starts investigation of prison riot, response in Folsom
A state prison investigation is looking into the cause of Wednesday's riot at California State Prison, Sacramento. Correctional officers used pepper spray and rubber projectiles and fired seven rifle rounds to quell the melee involving 150 maximum-security inmates about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. (Sacramento Bee)

States expand lucrative pensions to more jobs
Special retirement benefits once reserved for police, firefighters and others with dangerous jobs are now being given to tens of thousands of state workers employed as park rangers, foresters, dispatchers, coroners, even highway laborers, museum guards and lifeguards. (USA Today)

Assembly will not appeal court order to release member budgets
The Assembly has decided not to appeal a Sacramento Superior Court judge's ruling requiring it to release member-by-member budgets and any changes made to them through the year. (Sacramento Bee)

December 8, 2011
A.M. Reading: More state job cuts; Kan. commission says change pensions; S.D. pay raise recommended

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe Stater Worker: Jerry Brown serious on pensions; senator in hurry-up mode
Some observations from the recent legislative committee hearing that considered Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point public pension reform plan. (Sacramento Bee)

California Department of Mental Health to shed 600 state hospital jobs
The California Department of Mental Health on Wednesday proposed eliminating about 600 state hospital positions to shed costs, reducing the department's authorized workforce by about 5 percent. (Sacramento Bee)

The states doing the most (and least) to spread the wealth (California is 10th on the "most" list)
The Occupy movement has brought economic inequality to the headlines. Occupy protesters around the country have labeled themselves the 99 percent, in contrast to the wealthiest 1 percent. While this has captured the public's attention, differences in wealth have always existed, and states have tried to level the playing field by redistributing money through education spending, unemployment benefits, health care, welfare, and other means. 24/7 Wall St. examined government spending by state in a number of categories to identify those that give the most and least in money and benefits to their residents. (

December 7, 2011
From the notebook: Pension poll particulars; labor's response

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe 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.

Our report in today's Sacramento Bee discusses the latest Field Poll results concerning California voters' views on public employee pensions. You can read the story here, then click these links to go more deeply into the survey:

Tabulations From a Survey of California Registered Voters about the State and Local Government Employee Pensions and Pension Reform : These tables slice and dice responses by various demographic measures.

Plurality of voters sees public pensions as too generous, most react positively to Brown's reform proposals. Want changes to apply to both current and new public employees: Summarizes the November telephone survey's findings on voters' attitudes about public pensions.

Dave Low, chairman of union coalition Californians for Retirement Security, issued this statement about the new Field Poll results about public employee pensions:

December 7, 2011
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's pension plan polls well; Chris Christie's mission; bye-bye Rod Blagojevich

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia voters give edge to Jerry Brown's public pension overhaul
A majority of California voters support Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to dial back public employee pensions and a plurality think that state and local government retirements are "too generous," according to a new Field Poll. (Sacramento Bee)

Many Workers in Public Sector Retiring Sooner
MADISON, Wis. -- As states and cities struggle to resolve paralyzing budget shortfalls by sending workers on unpaid furloughs, freezing salaries and extracting larger contributions for health benefits and pensions, a growing number of public-sector workers are finding fewer reasons to stay. (New York Times)

Top Sacramento city managers agree to pay share of their pensions
With the annual cost of employee pensions rising, top management officials at Sacramento City Hall have agreed to pay the entire employee share of their CalPERS retirement contributions. (Sacramento Bee)

December 6, 2011
A.M. Reading: Government sheds jobs; pensions for all; Conn. workers lie, collect aid

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifPain in the Public Sector
Buried in the relatively positive numbers contained in the November jobs report was some very bad news for those who work in the public sector. There were 20,000 government workers laid off last month, by far the largest drop for any sector of the economy, mostly from states, counties and cities. (New York Times)

Op-Ed: Guaranteed pensions for all Americans [The Reply]
... Understandably, taxpayers are weary after years of budget shortfalls and bitter political battles over their money. But public servants are the wrong target. (Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: By cleaning up mess, Guard restores honor
It's not pretty or painless, but holding people to account is absolutely necessary for the California National Guard to restore its honor and regain public trust. (Sacramento Bee)

November 23, 2011
A.M. Reading: Bay Bridge hearing; legislators' car deal; no Black Friday off for N.J. workers

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifOn The Money: Judges Blow Whistle On State Agency's Hiring (CBS 13)

State senators see broad management problems in Caltrans
In a sometimes contentious legislative hearing Tuesday, state senators told California Department of Transportation officials that their management of data falsification by a technician in one of the agency's testing units suggests pervasive management problems. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Problems at Caltrans show need for state to reform the agency
The recent public revelation that a Caltrans employee submitted fabricated safety test results and destroyed testing data for the $6.3 billion Bay Bridge project is deeply troubling. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Caltrans, engineers serve public and take responsibility seriously
Taking shots at Caltrans doesn't require a license. The season is always open. Anyone can do it, and if you have a microphone, a pen or a computer, you can advertise the shot to anyone who is willing to hear it or read it. (Sacramento Bee)

State lawmakers could come out ahead in car expense plan
The decision to pay state lawmakers mileage for using their cars on business instead of a $300-per-month transportation allowance could end up costing taxpayers more. (Los Angeles Times)

November 22, 2011
A.M. Reading: Ca. nurses attacked; lawmakers' car allowance stalls; Ore.'s biggest pension

2 nurses attacked at Atascadero State Hospital
Two nurses at Atascadero State Hospital were treated for injuries Saturday after they were attacked by aggressive patients, a Department of Mental Health spokesperson tells KSBY News. (KSBY)

Retired public workers can count on promised benefits, court says
Health benefits for government retirees may not be eliminated if state and local governments had clearly promised workers those benefits, the California Supreme Court ruled in an Orange County case Monday. (Los Angeles Times)

Dan Walters: California government reformers occupy two camps
California's political dysfunction has evolved from a theory first advanced by a few jaundiced observers a generation ago - including yours truly - to a widely embraced axiom that has spawned endless journalistic, academic and civic discourse. (Sacramento Bee)

November 21, 2011
A.M. Reading: Caltrans; Brown's pension plan; watching R.I.

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEditorial: Gov. Brown needs to fix the culture of Caltrans
The debacle involving Caltrans' lax bridge inspections didn't take place on Gov. Jerry Brown's watch. But Caltrans' response is happening during his administration. So far, that response has been defensive, arrogant, dismissive and not the least bit reassuring. (Sacramento Bee)

Our View: Is Brown serious about pensions?
GOV. Jerry Brown has a golden opportunity to lead by example, to show us he's serious about putting independent, financially sophisticated people in charge of public pension systems that manage investments worth tens of billions of dollars. (Pasadena Star-News)

Brown polishing his tax plan
Gov. Jerry Brown is drafting a ballot initiative that would raise income taxes on the wealthy and hike sales taxes for everyone, insiders say. Much political finesse is involved. Each step is delicate. (Los Angeles Times)

November 20, 2011
A.M. Reading: Assembly personal aide travel; labor and Occupy movement; N.J. sick leave

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia Assembly committee budgets conceal travel by lawmakers' personal aides
Much of the money spent for travel by Assembly committees this year went to fly personal aides of Southern California legislators round-trip between the Capitol and their districts.
The trips contradict what the Assembly tells Californians in its annual expenditure report - that committee travel funds are used primarily for hearings to serve the public. (Sacramento Bee)

Prison plan sways prosecutors in filing charges
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley's office handles about one-third of California's felony convictions, making this single county critical to the success of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce prison overcrowding by sentencing nonviolent felony offenders to county jails. Cooley, however, is a Republican who adamantly opposes the Democratic governor's plan and is training his staffers to do everything they can to work around it - including pushing for the most serious charges to ensure that as many offenders as possible are sentenced to state prison. (San Francisco Chronicle)

November 18, 2011
A.M. Reading: R.I. pensions; Canada's retirement plan; Mo. pays least

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifRhode Island Public Workers to See Reduced Benefits
Rhode Island lawmakers took aggressive steps Thursday to overhaul the state's ailing pension system, passing legislation that sharply curtails retirement benefits for both current and retired public workers. (Wall Street Journal)

RI pension debate may be heading from the Statehouse to the courthouse
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rhode Island is taking dramatic steps toward fixing one of the nation's most underfunded public pension systems, but the true battle with public-sector unions may be just beginning. (AP / Washington Post)

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown's budget gimmick falls short
Jerry Brown sought his second stint as governor last year by promising to balance the deficit- riddled state budget without gimmicks. (Sacramento Bee)

State pension fund in worse shape despite reforms
FRANKFORT -- The state pension fund is in worse shape than ever despite a reform attempt the General Assembly passed in 2008, the fund's advisers said Thursday. (Lexington Herald-Leader)

November 17, 2011
A.M. Reading: Bay Bridge; Calif. budget; R.I. pension vote; Joe Paterno's state pension; Scott Walker recall

Bay Area panel critical of Caltrans amid bridge structure questions
Bay Area transportation commissioners said Wednesday that Caltrans has much to explain about why it failed to notify other officials that a technician who had fabricated test data on several structures also tested the new Bay Bridge. (Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Caltrans controversy rekindles public vs. private debate
The Bee's Sunday report that a state worker violated key procedures while testing support structures for the new Bay Bridge span and other projects raises anew the question: Should California privatize more of its infrastructure work? (The Sacramento Bee)

Fired Paterno could receive six-figure annual pension from Penn State
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's long service at the university theoretically puts him in line for a pension of more than $500,000 a year, according to an Associated Press analysis of state public pension records. (CBS Sports)

Grim California budget forecast means more cuts to schools, social services
The state's nonpartisan budget analyst on Wednesday said California will fall $3.7 billion short this fiscal year, likely resulting in fewer public school days, cuts to libraries and further reductions in developmentally disabled services. (Sacramento Bee)

November 16, 2011
A.M. Reading: Bureaucrats needed; caustic online comments; Bay Bridge; lawmakers' cars; N.Y. snooping

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifAmerica needs more powerful bureaucrats
Following the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, President Barack Obama appointed a little-known civil servant to become its public face. Displaying a genius for publicity, including self-promotion, the American infrastructure czar became one of the most visible figures in American public life. (Salon)

Editorial: Caltrans must end the dodge ball on Bay Bridge testing
Inspecting bridges and freeways in quake-prone California is arguably the most crucial work Caltrans performs. These inspections not only safeguard lives now and in the immediate future, but for an engineering project like the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, they provide a safety factor that is expected to last for decades. (Sacramento Bee)

Viewpoints: Anonymous online commenting only encourages civic bile
It was with some trepidation that I logged on to and scrolled down to reader comments on Jennifer Garza's recent story about the inclusive philosophy of St. Mark's United Methodist Church and its gay and straight congregation. Stories that mix religion and gay rights are always ripe for the most outrageous comments from both sides of that divide. So I feared the worst and those fears very quickly proved to be well-founded. (Sacramento Bee)

November 15, 2011
A.M. Reading: Lawmakers and the Bay Bridge; changing pensions; Herman Cain and collective bargaining

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifLegislature to examine Caltrans testing of Bay Bridge
Caltrans fired two employees who were implicated in problems involving the tests of the Bay Bridge and other freeway structures throughout California, as reported in a Bee investigation Sunday. ... The leaders of the California Senate and Assembly committees on transportation said they would hold separate hearings later this month to examine the issues raised in The Bee's report. (The Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: LAO report lays out conundrum of pensions
In a recent report, the Legislative Analyst's Office generally gives Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point pension reform plan decent marks, calling it "a bold starting point for legislative deliberations." But the "buts" in the LAO's analysis are daunting, a sobering discussion of how difficult it will be - perhaps even impossible - to tame the retirement tiger that each year consumes a bigger and bigger chunk of depleted state and local budgets. (Sacramento Bee)

Public pensions are protected in Constitution
In Philadelphia, 224 years ago, some men tucked these words into the nation's new Constitution: "No state shall ... pass any ... law impairing the obligation of contracts..." Those words, squeezed into a very long sentence in Article 1, Section 10, listing powers denied the states, became known as the "contracts clause." And it is playing havoc with modern-day public pension reformers, including Gov. Jerry Brown. (Los Angeles Times)

November 14, 2011
P.M. Reading: Bay Bridge construction questions; board overturns dismissals; Texas contracting costs

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifAfter taking a few days off, our daily round up of news returns today with this afternoon edition. Thanks to all who continue to suggest news stories to share. Keep them coming!

Bay Bridge Structural Problems?

A Sacramento Bee investigation raises questions about the structural integrity of the new span of the Bay Bridge. We talk with the investigative reporter and Caltrans officials about the allegations. Host: Michael Krasny (KQED)

Questions raised on Bay Bridge structural tests
The spire of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span majestically climbs hundreds of feet above the bay, an emerging icon of California's engineering and aesthetic prowess. Scheduled for completion and public use in 2013 at a projected cost of $6.3 billion, the bridge is the largest public works project in state history. Its designers placed one quality above all others: the strength to withstand the strongest anticipated earthquake. Yet a Bee investigation has found that the state Department of Transportation technician who conducted key testing to ensure structural integrity of the span's foundation was later disciplined for fabricating test results on other projects. (Sacramento Bee)

Caltrans fires two implicated in Bay Bridge testing problems
Caltrans fired two employees implicated in a range of problems involving the testing of the Bay Bridge and other freeway structures throughout California, as reported in a Sacramento Bee investigation published Sunday. (Sacramento Bee)

Editorial: Brown must vet integrity of bridge
Once it is rebuilt, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be an iconic structure whose majesty should give all Californians a deep sense of pride. (Sacramento Bee)

November 10, 2011
A.M. Reading: Gauging the pension mood; San Diego pension proposal; Ill. plan would avoid layoffs, closures

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Do local pension measures predict statewide outcome?
Politics is a lot like the stock market: Past performance doesn't guarantee future returns. With that caveat, let's look at how the public voted Tuesday and ask: What does this mean for the public pension debate in 2012? (Sacramento Bee)

California lawmakers head to Hawaii to hobnob with Capitol interests
More than a dozen California lawmakers are packing their bags for a weeklong trip to Hawaii to hobnob and discuss key issues with some of the Capitol's most powerful interests. ... The conference is the creation of the California Independent Voter Project, or CAIVP, a nonprofit public policy group backed by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Chevron, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and other Capitol interests. (Sacramento Bee)

State Workers Outraged About Overspending

November 9, 2011
A.M. Reading: Ohioans reject union limits measure; votes in Modesto, San Francisco favor pension changes

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifOhio voters overwhelmingly reject Issue 2, dealing a blow to Gov. John Kasich
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio voters dealt a sharp rebuke to first-year Gov. John Kasich and his conservative agenda Tuesday by overwhelmingly rejecting the restrictive new collective bargaining law he championed. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Modesto pension reforms lead
Modesto voters Tuesday were strongly supporting three nonbinding advisory measures that aim at reforming city pensions. (Modesto Bee)

Steve Maviglio: Why Labor Should Resist Gov. Brown's Pension Envy
At first glance, Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point package of pension reforms, released last week, looked like a deft political play, even winning over the usually sharp Calbuzz pundits. (Calbuzz)

AM Alert: Republicans call for greater focus on public pensions
Four Republican state senators, including Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, are holding a presser under the dome to highlight what they see as the urgency of reforming California's public pension systems. (Sacramento Bee)

November 8, 2011
A.M. Reading: Pension debate; CSU faculty strike; Ohio vote

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCSU faculty union OKs one-day strike at two campuses
The union that represents 23,000 professors, librarians and coaches at California State University voted Monday to strike on Nov. 17, canceling classes that day for tens of thousands of students at the system's East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses. (Sacramento Bee)

The Buzz: California Assembly aides expecting budget deficit up to $8 billion
Assembly budget aides expect California to face a deficit of about $5 billion to $8 billion in the next fiscal year, higher than the $3.1 billion projected by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to a memo obtained by The Bee. (Sacramento Bee)

Audit recommends fewer state-owned vehicles
Illinois state employees aren't driving state-owned passenger vehicles enough. (Rock River Times)

November 3, 2011
A.M. Reading: Pension proposals; Ore. raises; NY contract vote

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifOpinion: Thomas D. Elias: Brown's pensions, prisons plans draw skepticism
Political landmarks that can properly be labeled "Nixon-to-China" moments are rare, usually occurring only once in a career, if ever. But his actions on prisons and pensions gave Gov. Jerry Brown two of them this summer and fall. (Long Beach Press-Telegram)

Ballot proposals seek change in California's pension system.
State and local workers would pay more for their pensions under two ballot initiativeproposals made public Wednesday. (Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Former GOP chair brings pension reformers together
Wednesday's unveiling of two plans to roll back public employee retirement benefits signals that the once-fractured "pension reform" movement is on the mend. (Sacramento Bee)

November 1, 2011
A.M. Reading: Bearded Sikh starts prison job; the inscrutable Jerry Brown; Hawaii's liabilities jump

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifBearded Sikh Finally Allowed to Work in Calif. Prison
Trilochan Singh Oberoi, a bearded Sikh American, will finally begin working at Folsom State Prison in California Nov. 1, after a contentious six-year battle to gain employment there. (San Leandro India West)

Dan Walters: $20 million gift to California courts a big mistake
California's court system, which like all other state-supported activities is strapped for cash, is on the verge of making a big mistake. It's ready to accept a questionable $20 million donation for its very expensive and much-troubled computerized case management system. (Sacramento Bee)

Proposal for real pension reform
Who says Gov. Jerry Brown always kowtows to every desire of the public employee unions that helped get him elected? Nope - he just sometimes kowtows to them. But with last week's proposal for serious pension reform to help cure a potentially devastating long-term financial disease that could cripple California, Brown showed that once again that with him, always expect the unexpected.

October 31, 2011
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's pension reform motivation; conservative Ore. state workers; Alabama's declining state workforce

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifGeorge Skelton: Brown has two reasons to push pension reform
... (Jerry) Brown's proposed overhaul of public pensions is a major step toward fiscal prudence and political reality. The governor should take even bolder strides, affecting current workers more. But that's unlikely, because he and the Democratic-dominated Legislature are indebted to public employee unions for campaign money. Republicans, however, also feed at a shared trough: the prison guards union. (Los Angeles Times)

Editorial: Parks partnerships help, but they're not a panacea
Slowly, ever so slowly, some of the 70 state parks scheduled for closure in July 2012 are getting a reprieve. (Sacramento Bee)

Q & A with Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod
COState Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, is co-chairing a committee to hear the statewide concerns of employers and employees on the issue of pension reform.
Researchers estimate the combined unfunded obligations for retirement systems covering state employees, public school teachers and university workers could be as high as $500 billion. McLeod, who plans to run for Congress next year, recently sat down with the Daily Bulletin to discuss her role in state pension reform, and other major issues facing Californians. (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

October 30, 2011
A.M. Reading: Reviews of Jerry Brown's pension plan; military pensions; N.M. publishes state workers' pay

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEditorial: Brown delivers on pension reform
Gov. Jerry Brown has delivered on his campaign promise to tackle pension reform. The plan he put forward last week is bold and comprehensive. It is also politically risky.

Daniel Borenstein: Jerry Brown's pension plan a good first step, but it's not enough
Gov. Jerry Brown's new pension reform plan signals he's serious about restoring fiscal sanity to public employee retirement systems, but it lacks crucial details and doesn't stop the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars of debt to our children. (Mercury News)

Marin County public employees fed up with pay and pension critics
A number of veteran Marin County employees who work hard for their pay and pensions are sick and tired of being flayed by irate taxpayers who think public workers get too much for doing too little. Others at the Marin County Civic Center say they don't give critics and the politics of the moment much thought as they focus on getting their jobs done. They note pension cutbacks are in the works for new hires -- and that retirement is too far away to worry about in any case. (Marin Independent Journal)

October 29, 2011
A.M. Reading: More about pension reform; two state officials arrested; Wis. law OKs guns in Capitol

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalSTRS gives staff $1.79 million in bonuses
CalSTRS increased staff bonuses 11% to $1.79 million for the 12 months ended June 30 after posting the biggest gain since 1986. (Pensions and Investments)

Brown's pension plan leaves out CalSTRS
What about CalSTRS? Despite two years of lobbying from the teachers' retirement fund, a plan to shore up CalSTRS' finances was missing from Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform proposal this week. (Sacramento Bee)

PD Editorial: Brown's sensible pension plan
On Oct. 31, nearly five centuries ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, an event widely regarded as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown presented his own theses -- 12 in all -- identifying the problems and potential solutions to the growing public employee pension crisis. It remains to be seen whether the politics surrounding this issue will allow his plan to be a catalyst for any kind of policy reformation. But on matters of principle and common sense, it's fair to say the governor nailed it. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

October 28, 2011
A.M. Reading: Brown's pension plan, Ill. state cars go green; 'Occupy Albany'

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifDan Walters: Is Jerry Brown's pension plan real or a ploy?
A few years ago, the California Public Employees' Retirement System's chief actuary gave what he assumed was a private briefing and described the huge system's liabilities as "unsustainable." ... Gov. Jerry Brown, who was elected with critical union support last year, weighed in Thursday by proposing a 12-point pension reform plan that could, if enacted, significantly mitigate those consequences. And he used the same word - "unsustainable" - to describe the pension dilemma. (Sacramento Bee)

Jerry Brown's pension package faces skeptical Legislature
Even as Gov. Jerry Brown announced his plan Thursday to reduce pension benefits for public employees across the state, its prospects of passing intact appeared dim. California's powerful labor interests objected to major parts of the plan, and the leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature - neither of whom attended Brown's announcement - reacted warily. (Sacramento Bee)

Jerry Brown's pension plan explained
Gov. Jerry Brown estimates his public pension reform plan would save the state $4 billion to $11 billion over 30 years and $21 billion to $56 billion over 60 years. Local government pensions also would have to comply and would save proportionately similar sums, the administration said Thursday. Here are the details. (Sacramento Bee)

October 27, 2011
A.M. Reading: Brown's pension plan; R.I. pension debate; Texas 'grudge match'

Jerry Brown to propose higher retirement age, lower pension benefits for new state workers
Gov. Jerry Brown will propose a higher retirement age and less-generous pension benefits for newly hired state employees, sources familiar with Brown's pension plan said Wednesday. (Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Navigating the rocky world of state service
The long tail of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, the state's iffy economy and Gov. Jerry Brown's famous unpredictability continue to keep state workers off balance. A recent email to The State Worker illustrates what's happening: (Sacramento Bee)

Defending Public Pensions (ABC News)
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

October 26, 2011
A.M. Reading: 'The new petty'; Calif. and Wis. overtime; Vt. state workers paid but idle;

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifTim Hodson had diverse roles in state's politics
Tim Hodson, a widely recognized expert on California politics who spent 35 years working, teaching and preparing future leaders for the state Capitol, died Tuesday at age 61. (Sacramento Bee)

Parting Words: 'The New Petty'
Timothy Hodson, director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, passed away Tuesday. Hodson was a leading expert on California politics and a contributor to The Bee during his long and distinguished career. Not long before he died, he wrote this short poem - a lament about the state of public affairs in California. His family and friends requested that we publish it, and so we present it here. (Sacramento Bee)

Nurse Making $270K on California's OT Binge
Jean Keller earned $269,810 last year working as a nurse at a men's prison on California's central coast by tripling her regular pay with overtime hours. (Bloomberg)

October 25, 2011
A.M. Reading: Government job losses; CalPERS versus Murdoch; unions talk the talk

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifGovernment job losses a growing drag on recovery
WASHINGTON -- Conservative Republicans have long clamored for government downsizing. They're starting to get it - by default. Crippled by plunging tax revenues, state and local governments have shed over a half million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. And, after adding jobs early in the downturn, the federal government is now cutting them as well. (Associated Press / Sacramento Bee)

SF ballot measures: will courts revisit pensions?
SAN FRANCISCO -- One of two competing pension measures on the San Francisco ballot next month is said by opponents to be an illegal assault on the "vested rights" of public employees, a cost-cutting plan certain to be overturned by the courts. (Calpensions)

Murdoch, all News Corp. directors, re-elected
News Corp. shareholders Friday re-elected all directors, including K. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, and his sons James R. Murdoch, deputy COO, and Lachlan K. Murdoch, according to a company statement. ... The meeting was contentious as a number of large public pension funds, including CalPERS and the $146.6 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, opposed the re-election of Mr. Murdoch, as well as the re-election of his sons. (Pensions & Investments)

October 24, 2011
A.M. Reading: Calif. labor's pension position; David Crane creating PAC; NJ pension overhaul overblown?

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifAnother View: Public employees support pension fix
Next week, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are slated to begin a timely and deliberate recrafting of California's public pension system aimed at ensuring the system's stability and long-term affordability. Instead of bowing to political pressures from anti-labor groups and blaring headlines about the 2 percent of pension recipients who receive more than $100,000 per year, they intend to take a careful and thorough look at ways to ensure that Californians have the long-term retirement security we all deserve. (Sacramento Bee)

The power of one: Perez controls Assembly with money
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez single-handedly doles out millions in public funds each year to his 80 members: No vote, no committee, no debate. (Sacramento Bee)

State hospital workers remember colleague's death
NAPA, Calif. -- State workers gathered at facilities across the North Bay to mark the one year anniversary of the death of Napa State Hospital technician Donna Gross. (KGO)

October 21, 2011
A.M. Reading: Prison 'realignment'; Texas ends weekend lunches for some inmates; prison costs hinder budget cuts

Prison realignment reduces time Sacramento man will be behind bars
In Sacramento, the face of realignment from prison to jail belongs to a 64-year-old heroin addict. He is a Vietnam War combat veteran, a disabled Oak Park diabetic with a bad liver and bad kidneys. He has a wife, two grown kids and a criminal record that goes back to the early Nixon administration. (Sacramento Bee)

AB109 Taking Shape in Monterey County

NYC pension funds are cost-effective - report
Traditional pension plans provide a "better bang for the buck" for New York City public employees, paying the same retirement benefits as those used in the private sector but at a significantly lower cost, according to a report issued by the comptroller on Thursday. (Reuters)

October 20, 2011
A.M. Reading: Corrections layoffs; states rethink retirement age; Greece turmoil continues

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: This time, California prison layoffs look real
Some employees who work for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can't believe that their jobs in the state's prison and parole system are going away. (Sacramento Bee)

Pittsburgh and Harrisburg: A tale of two deep-in-debt cities
Four hours apart on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are linked not just by geography but also parallel financial woes that bring into view what happens when local governments fail to handle big bills and states get dragged into their mess. (

CalPERS renews contracts for $123bn equity portfolio
The board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System renewed the contracts of the 16 external managers responsible for its $123.3bn global equity portfolio. (Global Pensions)

October 19, 2011
A.M. Reading: Private pension shenanigans; unions amend contracts; R.I. unveils pension changes

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Investigative reporter Ellen Schultz talks about how corporations deliberately deceived their employees and Congress to profit from workers' pensions.

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State prison worker unions opt for contract changes to save jobs
As the state's massive prison and parole department begins a historic downsizing to cut costs and comply with court orders, it's getting a hand from organized labor. (Sacramento Bee)

October 18, 2011
A.M. Reading: CalPERS, CalSTRS: delay accounting changes ; Tenn. state workers on welfare; Grecian 'death spiral'

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalSTRS joins foes of Murdoch re-election
Add CalSTRS to the small but growing list of pension funds voting against Rupert Murdoch's re-election to News Corp.'s board of directors. (Sacramento Bee)

Outlook goes from bad to worse for CalSTRS under proposed accounting standards
California's big public pension funds are already short tens of billions of dollars. An organization of accountants is about to make the picture look even worse. A proposed change to pension accounting standards could give more ammunition to conservatives seeking to reduce pension benefits for public sector workers. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to issue a wide-ranging proposal to overhaul pensions sometime soon. (Sacramento Bee)

CalPERS & CalSTRS: delay new accounting rules
SAN FRANCISCO -- The nation's two largest public pension systems last week asked for a delay in new accounting rules that will make pension debt more visible, a change intended to aid decision-makers that some think may alarm the public. (Calpensions)

October 17, 2011
A.M. Reading: Rewritten bill favors labor; NY avoids layoffs; the Long Beach pension model

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifLast-minute 'gut and amend' laws bypass scrutiny in California
It was after midnight on the last day of the legislative session last month when the state Senate took up a controversial bill concerning election laws for the very first time. Most bills go through a months-long process of hearings, negotiations, amendments and votes. Not this one. Senate Bill 202 was written about 24 hours earlier, when Democrat Loni Hancock of Berkeley deleted the language in a bill about filing fees on voter initiatives and replaced it with a highly political proposal to change the state's election laws in ways that will favor Democrats in 2012. ... SB 202 delays a vote on the rainy-day fund until 2014 and moves initiatives, including the paycheck measure unions oppose, to the November ballot, when Democratic turnout will likely be higher. (Sacramento Bee)

Cuomo Forges Deal to Avert Layoffs
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's second-largest government union struck a tentative agreement on Sunday that revises its package of pay and benefit concessions and staves off nearly 3,500 layoffs. (Wall Street Journal)

Editorial: Don't give a blank check to CalSTRS
Jack Ehnes, executive officer of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, told his board last week that he wants Gov. Jerry Brown to boost CalSTRS funding next year.
While Ehnes refused to say how much more precisely - he says it's the responsibility of the Legislature and the administration to determine the amount - he has said it will cost the state and school districts an additional $4 billion a year for the next 40 years to achieve full funding for the system. Sacramento Bee)

October 15, 2011
A.M. Reading: CalPERS takes on Murdoch; scapegoating labor; Ohio bargaining battle heats up R.I. longevity bonuses

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalpers Plans Front-Running, Personal Stock-Trading Restrictions
The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund, is considering a proposal to restrict personal stock trades by employees as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. The proposed rules would require about 700 Calpers employees and their spouses and domestic partners to get approval before trading a stock for their personal accounts. (Bloomberg)

Threat to state workers' pension perk causes rush at CalPERS
California government employees, fearing that lawmakers may soon shut down a controversial program that boosts their retirement payouts, have flooded the state's largest pension system with inquiries and requests to purchase the benefit. (Sacramento Bee)

Murdoch board seat targeted by CalPERS
CalPERS took on Rupert Murdoch again, voting its shares of News Corp. stock against the media baron's re-election to his company's board of directors. (Sacramento Bee)

October 14, 2011
A.M. Reading: Calif. needs federal money; union official to receive $500,000; 'pension robbery'

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalifornia's emergency manager warns of need for federal money
WASHINGTON - California's top emergency manager warned federal lawmakers Thursday that U.S. penny-pinching puts the state at risk. (Sacramento Bee)

CalPERS fires partner in struggling winery investments
CalPERS expected to harvest a fortune from lush fields of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. But like many of the pension fund's big-time real estate deals of the past decade, the pension fund's investment in the wine industry turned sour. (Sacramento Bee)

Hercules Council, after rescinding medical benefits, finds retirement a stickier process
The new Hercules City Council, reacting to the city's bleak financial condition, rescinded health benefits for its members in one of its first official acts this summer. But eliminating retirement benefits has proved more complicated. (Mercury News)

October 13, 2011
A.M. Reading: CalPERS investments; outsourcing state jobs; news from Wisconsin

Investing Amid Global Turmoil
CalPERS Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear talks about the fund's asset allocation, current economic challenges, the fund's long-term perspective and the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

Target Return Of 7.75% Very Challenging In The Near-term
Joseph Dear, the CIO of CALPERS, appeared on CNBC yesterday to discuss the near and long term outlook for the markets. His comments are highly instructive for other investors in formulating an investment policy, either for themselves or on behalf of a pension or endowment fund. (

The State Worker: California government rules and reality sometimes clash
Unions this week hailed Gov. Jerry Brown for signing legislation aimed at making it harder for the state to contract for services that state workers can provide. Whether the measure, Assembly Bill 740, really accomplishes that goal isn't clear. Sometimes the rules and the reality of government clash. (Sacramento Bee)

California big-city mayors want more money for public safety
As California begins redirecting new inmates and parolees to counties this month, nine big-city mayors are asking the cash-strapped state for money to address a "brewing public safety crisis." (Sacramento Bee)

October 12, 2011
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown & labor; realignment pitfalls; Ore. governor rescinds DOJ manager raises

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifGov. Jerry Brown is giving unions most of what they seek
Reporting from Sacramento-- When the dust settled on Gov. Jerry Brown's first legislative session in nearly three decades, no group had won more than organized labor, which heralded its largest string of victories in nearly a decade. (Los Angeles Times)

Proposed California regulations spell out gift-reporting requirements for elected officials
The state political watchdog agency is set to consider next month adopting substantial changes to rules governing gifts to public officials and staff, including exemptions from disclosure for presents received from former spouses, dating partners and longtime friends. (Sacramento Bee)

Board limits state workers
The Board of Examiners approved restrictions Tuesday on state workers' ability to contract for other employment. The changes to the State Administrative Manual were ordered by the Legislature after an audit showed what appeared to be conflicts when state workers with one agency contract for additional work with another. (Nevada Appeal)

October 11, 2011
A.M. Reading: S.C. state workers' new phone greeting; Calif. revenues slide; Vt. workers split over grievance

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifHello, sunshine! How not to sell a state that's feeling the pinch
It's a great day in South Carolina, and if you don't believe it, ask Governor Nikki Haley. On September 27th the governor ordered the 16 directors of cabinet agencies under her direct control to change the way their employees answer the telephone. So now when phoning, say, the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services or the Department of Employment and Workforce, callers are supposed to hear this cheery greeting: "It's a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?" (The Economist)

CalSTRS reported ready to seek more state funding
For more than two years, CalSTRS has been talking about asking state lawmakers for more money to plug its funding gap. Now the teachers' pension fund believes the Legislature is ready to listen. (Sacramento Bee)

Pension reform: giving workers low-cost option
Unions and management in San Jose have bargaining proposals aimed at making a rare triple play in public pension reform -- big cost cuts, done quickly and without a legal battle. Current workers would be given the option of switching to lower pensions. (Calpensions)

October 10, 2011
A.M. Reading: Money and initiatives; governors, unions play chicken; Delaware changes spousal health coverage

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCorporations, wealthy dominate initiative process
California's initiative process was intended to give people a way to arm themselves against corruption, whether it was from lawmakers in the Capitol or the special interests that controlled them. But in the 100 years since former Gov. Hiram Johnson rallied against the corrupt politics that permeated state government, corporations and wealthy individuals have adapted to California's initiative process - and in some years dominate it - by qualifying ballot measures that benefit them. (Associated Press / Sacramento Bee)

Opinion: David Low: California public employees support some pension reform strategies
Sacramento is slated to begin a timely and deliberate recrafting of California's public pension system. Both the governor and the Legislature plan to launch a thorough review of the system -- with meaningful hearings and in-depth exploration of fair and workable fixes -- which will be a positive step toward ensuring the system's stability and long-term affordability. (San Jose Mercury News)

Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates
Turmoil in Europe, the sluggish economy and low interest rates are intensifying pressure on public pension-fund systems to reduce the annual-performance assumptions they use to determine contributions from taxpayers and employees. Some lawmakers and pension officials are pushing to abandon the roughly 8% annual-return assumption set by many public-employee funds, saying the rate is unrealistically high given upheaval in markets around the world and the preceding financial crisis. (Wall Street Journal)

October 7, 2011
A.M. Reading: Ore. retirees face pension paybacks; Calif. realignment money shaky; ad aims at splitting labor

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifOregon PERS can collect overpayments, court says
The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System has the authority to collect overpayments from as many as 38,000 government workers who retired between April 2000 and April 2004, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The 6-0 decisions in a pair of cases upheld the board, which ordered the repayments in January 2006, and turned aside lawsuits filed by retirees. (Statesman Journal)

Jerry Brown toughens law on cellphones in prison
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday making it a misdemeanor for prison guards or visitors to smuggle cellphones to inmates, a bid to reduce inmates' ability to organize gang activity and other crimes from behind bars. (Sacramento Bee)

Calpers Urged to Reject Proposal to Limit Corporate Politicking
Oct. 7 -- Business groups appealed to the California Public Employees' Retirement System not to use its $218 billion power as the largest U.S. public pension to push the boards of corporations in which it invests to vote on political donations and disclose them annually. (Bloomberg)

October 6, 2011
A.M. Reading: Assembly's budget tricks; Schwarzenegger's take on state; unions occupy Wall Street

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEditor's note, Oct. 6, 1:05 p.m.: The Marin Independent Journal report in today's news roundup incorrectly identifies a state worker arrested on bribery and drug charges as a correctional officer. The state pay database identifies his job classification as a Materials and Stores Supervisor I.

California Assembly reports on lawmakers' spending mislead the public
... The Assembly routinely underreports the amount of money used to run legislators' personal offices and overreports the operating costs of committees that do the brunt of the policy work in the house. The practice obscures how the lower house's $146.7 million budget truly is spent at the Capitol and protects legislators from public criticism of their spending. (The Sacramento Bee)

The State Worker: Are unions sincere about helping private sector workers?
A new report this week concludes that nearly half of Californians will retire in or near poverty status. It's the kind of news you usually see from conservative think tanks, often with the kicker that public pensions unfairly shield government employees from the pain everyone else is feeling. Surprise! The UC Berkeley Labor Center published the report with the support of Service Employees International Union and labor coalition Californians for Retirement Security. (The Sacramento Bee)

California and Bust
The smart money says the U.S. economy will splinter, with some states thriving, some states not, and all eyes are on California as the nightmare scenario. After a hair-raising visit with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who explains why the Golden State has cratered, Michael Lewis goes where the buck literally stops--the local level, where the likes of San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Vallejo fire chief Paige Meyer are trying to avert even worse catastrophes and rethink what it means to be a society. (Vanity Fair)

October 5, 2011
A.M. Reading: Brown disappoints unions; Wash. senators ask for ideas; Mass. state workers face charges for filthy pool

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJerry Brown cites budget woes in veto of child care, welfare bills
In a blow to organized labor, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have let unions organize child-care providers who work out of the home. (Sacramento Bee)

Bill expands state auditor's powers in wake of Bell scandal
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday gave the state auditor broad new powers to investigate the misuse of taxpayer funds by cities and counties, signing legislation created in the wake of the financial scandal in the city of Bell. (Los Angeles Times)

October 4, 2011
A.M. Reading: Bad news for budget; LA moves cops; HI teachers sue over bargaining tactics

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifDan Walters: California must face hard truth about budget
The harsh truth is that California's recession-strapped economy shows only faint signs of recovery, and state and local governments will be squeezed by yawning income-outgo gaps for years. There's almost nothing that political officeholders can do about that fact other than attempt to raise taxes. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to try, but there are also no indications that voters would be receptive. Most likely, he and other politicians will be restricted to spending only the revenue that a moribund economy delivers, and must prioritize. (Sacramento Bee)

SF pension reform donors tied to antiunion efforts
San Francisco -- San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is billing his pension reform measure on the Nov. 8 ballot as a progressive effort to protect city services for children, seniors and the poor - and has bristled at the notion it's an attack on unions. But the two main contributors to Proposition D - venture capitalist Michael Moritz and businessman George Hume, who have donated $250,000 apiece - have also contributed to Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin who supported those states' polarizing, national-headline-grabbing efforts this year to curb unions' rights dramatically. (San Francisco Chronicle)

September 24, 2011
A.M. Reading: Legislative pensions; layoffs don't always save; Ore. labor contracts' costs underestimated

How state lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't
Click here for a chart of legislative pensions compared with those provided to state employees. California lawmakers elected after 1990 do not receive pensions. (USA Today)

UC Davis vet apologizes for locking her dog in hot car
The controversy isn't about who let the dog out but who locked it in a hot car at the Arden Fair mall - a UC Davis veterinarian. (Sacramento Bee)

Update: RI Senate GOP caucus to 'decline' 1.6 percent raise
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- All eight members of the state Senate Republican caucus announced Thursday that they "would be declining the 1.6 percent raise'' in their legislative salaries. (Providence Journal)