The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 15, 2013
VIDEO: Chuck Reed's public pension talk at Hoover Institution

Here's video of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's keynote address on public pensions at Stanford's Hoover Institution on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

As we reported last week, Reed said during a Q&A after his presentation that he would soon file papers to put a public pension measure on California's statewide ballot. That part of the video starts at roughly the 24-minute mark.

Reed, a Democrat, is proposing an amendment to the California state constitution that would allow state and local government employers to cut pensions prospectively for all employees, while pensions already earned would be protected.

September 27, 2013
Jerry Brown signs state employee pay raise, contract bills

130927-Jerry-Brown-bill-signing.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that funds special pay raises for workers in two departments and another measure that appropriates money for new contracts he bargained with seven employee unions.

Senate Bill 102 approves special agreements with various unions totaling $45.1 million, including raises in fiscal 2013-14 for key State Water Project employees and wage hikes for DMV workers.

Assembly Bill 478 appropriates $18.5 million to cover the fiscal 2013-14 cost of contracts negotiated with seven unions and conforms to pension roll-back laws passed last year.

The measure also makes compensation for those employees a continuous appropriation for either two or three years, depending when their contracts expire. The designation guarantees their pay won't be withheld if a budget impasse keeps the state from paying other obligations on time.

Here's a list of the unions included in AB 478 and the final year of their continuous appropriation protection:

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (BU 6) - FY 2014-15
California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (BU 7) - FY 2015-16
Professional Engineers in California Government (BU 9) - FY 2014-15
International Union of Operating Engineers (BU 12) - FY 2014-15
Union of American Physicians and Dentists (BU 16) - FY 2015-16
California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (BU 18) - FY 2015-16
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (BU 19) - FY 2015-16

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and his Legislative Affairs Secretary, Gareth Elliot, discuss a bill awaiting the governor's signature in the Capitol courtyard on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

September 4, 2013
California state law enforcement contract costs $26.5 million

RP_STATE_PARKS_BINOCS.JPGA new three-year contract for about 7,000 state workers in public safety and inspection jobs will add about $26.5 million in costs through fiscal 2015-16, according to a just-published review by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The centerpiece of the agreement with the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association and Gov. Jerry Brown is a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015. The union represents employees including California Highway Patrol dispatchers, Department of Motor Vehicles licensing-registration examiners, park rangers and game wardens.

Two other employee subsets in the union, state hospital police officers and developmental center peace officers, are in line for an additional 4.67 percent bump on the same date.

Related: Law enforcement officers' union agrees to new contract

The agreement also gives employees the option to cash out up to 20 hours of vacation or annual leave each year at their employing department's discretion.

There's no official estimate of what that would cost, although the LAO says it would be "a few million dollars in any given year." While the leave buyouts would hit departments in the short-term, they're a long-term savings because employees who cash out when they exit state service do so at their final pay rate.

"At the end of fiscal 2011-12," the analysis embedded below notes, "the state's liability associated with Unit 7 employees' vacation/annual leave balance was about $55 million."

September 3, 2013
Read the contract between Jerry Brown, California engineers

AerialDelta.JPGAs we reported over the holiday weekend, California's state engineers' union has tentatively agreed to a two-year contract that includes an across-the-board raise.

The deal "deep classes" a handful of engineering job classifications and also adds State Water Project engineers to a paid-time-off incentive program. Other union contracts already include the program, which pays up to 80 hours to employees whose divisions within the Department of Water Resources meet certain water delivery and power generation goals.

Here's the tentative agreement. Scroll down to pages 18 and 19 for more details about the incentive program:

August 30, 2013
Operating engineers' new deal costs state up to $54.9 million

130620-capitol-mall.JPGThe tentative agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and the union representing roughly 11,000 heavy equipment operators will add up to $54.9 million to the state's payroll costs, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The two-year deal, like most Brown has negotiated with other unions over the last two months, relies on a fiscal trigger to determine whether the money will be split over two years or deferred to the last year.

One scenario for state workers in Bargaining Unit 12, who are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, provides a $1,200 bonus on July 1, 2014 (which equals 2.5 percent of the average wage for employees covered by the contract) and a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015.

That, along with higher employer contributions to health insurance premiums and a few other minor non-wage increases, would cost the state $54.9 million, according to the LAO.

But if Brown says revenues in fiscal 2014-15 aren't sufficient to cover the bonus, union members will have to wait one year to get a 3.25 percent raise with no bonus. That plan would reduce the contract's three-year cost to $42.3 million.

That hits the high points of the IUOE deal, but if you want to get more deeply into the numbers and terms, here's the analyst's report:

August 24, 2013
California correctional officers' union reaches tentative contract

110520_Jimenez.JPGCaifornia's state prison officers will receive a 4 percent pay raise and earn overtime more easily under the terms of a tentative agreement reached with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The deal also allows the state to continue reassigning staff to cover vacancies and reduces the length of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's academy training.

"We feel that the deal that was agreed on was a fair and equitable deal that is reflective of the way the bargaining process should work," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesman JeVaughn Baker said in a telephone interview. "Both parties made some concessions, and both parties gained in the process as well."

CCPOA leadership met in Sacramento today and unanimously voted to send the deal to its 30,000 rank-and-file members for a ratification vote. The two-year contract would expire in July 2015 if approved by members and the Legislature.

Costs of the agreement aren't yet available. A phone message seeking comment from Brown's Department of Human Resources, which negotiates contracts with the unions representing state employees, was not immediately returned this afternoon.

Among the agreement's provisions, according to Baker:

August 23, 2013
From the notebook: CalPERS dependent verification project data

Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGOur story in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the particulars of CalPERS Dependent Eligibility Verification project, the massive two-year audit of the fund's health insurance rolls to weed out people incorrectly receiving benefits via state and local government plans.

During our reporting for the story we asked CalPERS for data showing the numbers, by state department, for subscribers who took advantage of the three-month amnesty period and voluntarily disenrolled ineligible dependents who were on their plans. You can view the data here.

The tables show the number of employees, retirees and survivors who switched from plans covering two people to plans covering one person, from family plans to two-person plans and so forth. The data does not include amnesty responses by local government agency or school district subscribers.

Thanks to CalPERS information officer Bill Madison III for quickly turning around our request.

CalPERS also has set up an extensive FAQ page covering who is and who isn't considered a dependent for purposes of health insurance coverage and why CalPERS is auditing the rolls.Click here to read it.

PHOTO: A courtyard at CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

August 22, 2013
Column extra: Read state worker's furlough back pay lawsuit

Our State Worker column today reports on a furlough lawsuit filed by Kelly Vent, an Alcoholic Beverage Control attorney who works in Sacramento.

Here's Vent's petition to the Sacramento County Superior Court. She will likely amend it to include the Department of Human Resources and the State Personnel Board, she said in a Wednesday email. You can find this document and others related to it via the court's online document viewer using case number 34-2013-80001576.

Kelly Vent Petition for Writ of Mandate

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

August 22, 2013
California high on list of highest-paid government employees

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its annual analysis of state- and local-government employee pay. California ranked near or at the top in 2011, depending on how you parse the numbers.

Dan Walters has more details on our sister blog, Capitol Alert. Here's the federal report below:

US Census Bureau 2011 Summary Report

August 19, 2013
Jerry Brown, California state doctors' union reach labor pact

130813_prison_doctor.jpgThe Union of American Physicians and Dentists has come to tentative terms on a labor contract that includes raises ranging between 4 percent and 8 percent within three years.

The agreement negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Human Resources covers roughly 1,500 employees. Like contracts other unions have bargained in the last several weeks, the timing of the pay increases depends on state revenue projections.

If the numbers look good, the raises will be spread over the the last two years of the deal, 2014-15 and 2015-16. If the administration anticipates revenues will slump next year, the pay increases will be delayed and lumped together in 2015-16.

The administration estimates that the agreement adds a total $28.9 million in salary expenses.

Some medical consultants and public health medical officers are in line to receive a total 5 percent raise, and a few subsets of doctors and surgeons will receive a total 8 percent hike. All other UAPD-covered employees will get a total 4 percent raise within three years.

The agreement guarantees no furloughs during the life of the contract and accepts the changes to pensions that the Legislature and Brown made law last year. Business and travel reimbursement rates get a bump and employers' contributions to health, dental and vision plans increase by 8 percent.

The Legislature and UAPD rank and file must both approve the agreement, which would run retroactively from last month to July 1, 2016. Here's the official summary:

August 5, 2013
California psych techs' contract adds a total $39 million in costs

mac_taylor.JPGCalifornia's state psychiatric technicians' new tentative contract, which includes an across-the-board pay raise, increases the state's cost for their service by a total $39 million over three years, according to Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's office.

Assuming approval by the Legislature and the union rank-and-file, the agreement pushes nearly all of the increases into the last two years of the three-year deal. For example, the Brown administration has the option to split the proposed 4.25 percent pay hike between fiscal 2014-15 and fiscal 2015-16 or to defer the whole thing until fiscal 2015-16 if the state's finances warrant it.

Local 1000, the first union to reach a deal, is receiving a cumulative 4.5 percent raise with the same deferral terms.

The raises for about 5,000 employees represented by the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians will account for $15.4 million, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office report released Friday.

Increased employer contributions to health insurance will add another $14.1 million over the life of the agreement. Those contributions will roughly equal 80 percent of the premiums' cost. The contract also reduces waiting times to one year for employees to add dependents to medical coverage, a $200,000 state cost increase that starts in 2015-16, the analyst says.

The association's contract also calls for an increase in travel reimbursement rates and evening and night shift differentials. Neither add much to the state's employee costs -- about $400,000 over the life of the contract.

The shift differential money doesn't count toward pension calculations. Under the expired contract, it did. A new trend?

For context, salaries for state employees under the governor's authority will cost an estimated $15.3 billion this year. That figure doesn't include benefits.

Here's the LAO's review of the CAPT contract:

July 18, 2013
Column Extra: The first try at CHP pay parity

Our column in today's Bee takes on the question: How did CHP officers' pay become set by law?

The answer is a story than spans four decades, Republican and Democratic governors and battles wages in the statehouse, the courthouse and the ballot box.

Ironically, Caifornia voters rejected a measure to guarantee CHP officers receive pay comparable to the maximum paid their counterparts statewide. Gov. (and former actors' union president) Ronald Reagan signed the first CHP pay parity law.

The documents below include the 1972 ballot measure's title and summary in a letter from then-Attorney General Evelle Younger to -- that's right -- former Secretary of State Jerry Brown.

Proposition 16 Title and Summary

July 5, 2013
Read the agreement for CA Department of Water Resources raises

On Wednesday, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the state reached an agreement to raise the pay of select water department workers.

The agreement affects the pay for job classes which that state says it has had difficultly staffing due to wages that are below what is being paid by other agencies. The raises range between 17.9 and 37.4 percent and are effective immediately.

Read the agreement and transmittal letter below.

July 3, 2013
Jerry Brown grants raises for some water department workers

Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has agreed to increase pay by up to 37 percent for water department workers in positions the state has had difficulty staffing.

Brown and representatives from International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) finalized an addendum to the union's contract Wednesday to raise the pay by 17.9 percent to 37.4 percent for 741 employees for 34 job classifications in the Department of Water Resources. The raises are effective immediately and are estimated to cost the state $18.3 million.

State and union officials have said the raises are needed to prevent the drain of State Water Project employees to other higher-paying jobs. The vacancy rate in jobs responsible for running and operating the vast project has run between 10 percent and 15 percent for the last two years.

The agreement comes after California Water Commission Chairman Joseph Byrne warned of a staffing "crisis" in the department. In a April 23 letter to Resources Secretary John Laird, he noted some employees were being paid "65 percent below the industry's median."

In some cases, the state has spent $300,000 to $400,000 to train employees, only to see them lured away from state service by higher salaries elsewhere, department officials have said.

In effort to retain existing staff in the short term, the agreement prevents workers from immediately using the extra pay to bump up their retirement. The deal says workers cannot apply any of the raise toward their pension calculation if they retire before July 1, 2014 and only half of it if they retire before July 1, 2015. After that, their full salary could be used for pension calculations.

The agreement will affect 19 rank-and-file classes, three manager classes and 12 supervisor classes.

"As one of the largest utilities in the world, it is vitally important that the Department of Water Resources retain highly skilled professionals to ensure timely, efficient deliveries of water to 25 million Californians and thousands of farms and ranches," Richard Stapler, deputy secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, said in a prepared statement. "California's economy relies on a secure, reliable supply of water, and a loss of these professionals to other utilities could also cost the state millions of dollars in missed water deliveries."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

July 3, 2013
What California state workers earn: Health and social services

PK_PENSION_NAPA_ESCAPE.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents the state's health and social services professionals. Its bargaining goals sound much like the deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000: an across-the-board salary increase, differential pay bumps and increased employer health benefits contributions, according to the local's its website.

A look at Bargaining Unit 19 by the numbers:

July 2, 2013
What California state workers earn: Doctors and dentists

RDB090.JPG By Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

Licensed medical staff are generally among the highest paid state employees, so it's no surprise the members of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists earned more on average than any other group of rank-and-file employees in 2011 and 2012.

Last year, for example, UAPD members' median wage of $229,000 more than doubled the $106,000 median paid to the runner-up group, state legal employees such as attorneys and administrative law judges.

The numbers:

July 2, 2013
What California state workers earn: Operating engineers

RCB_20121010TEENJOBS_0087.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

The International Union of Operating Engineers represents two state employee groups. Unit 12 covers craft and maintenance employees while Unit 13 bargains for stationary engineers.

Unit 12 negotiators, including president Tim Neep, have argued that the state needs to pay more to keep key employees who work on the massive State Water Project.

The Brown administration, according to the union, has resisted that push for fear of opening up the issue for other groups.

Here's what members of those two bargaining units earned over the last two years:

July 1, 2013
What California state workers earn: Scientists

RB_Salmon_10.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

For years, the California Association of Professional Scientists has argued that its members are underpaid, not only relative to counterparts in other governments and private business, but also when compared to what other state employees earn for doing exactly the same work.

The disparity has hit the union hard as its members leave for jobs represented by other unions, particularly engineer classifications.

CAPS also has filed a grievance over what it says are violations of its contractual telecommuting provisions.

A look at what state scientists earned in the last two years:

July 1, 2013
What California state workers earn: Engineers

20120814_HA_CATRANS0203.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

Professional Engineers in California Government was the last employee group to negotiate pay parity for its members with contracts that dramatically increased wages over a number of years.

But the last big pay bump was five years ago. Since then, PECG has fought to hold the line on wages and curtail outsourced engineering and inspection contracts, and also has battled furloughs all the way to the state Supreme Court. Now union leaders say it's time to look again at what members earn compared to their local- and regional-government counterparts and boost travel reimbursements that have been stagnant for many years. (Oh, and the union also wants managers to earn more, since wages tend to roll downhill.)

Here is a look at what state engineers earned in the last two years:

June 28, 2013
What California state workers earn: Firefighters

RP_FIRE_TRAINI_G_MCCLOUD.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

Like California Highway Patrol officers, the state's firefighters avoided furloughs during Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

When Gov. Jerry Brown insisted that all unions accept furloughs of one day per month last summer, the firefighters' union went along -- and it got a four-year contract extension out of the deal.

Here's what California Department of Forestry Firefighters' members earned over the last two years:

June 28, 2013
What California state workers earn: Law enforcement

RB_Memorial_3.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association stubbed its toe during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign when it endorsed Republican Meg Whitman and became the subject of an embarassing voice mail recording from candidate Jerry Brown's camp.

Observers, this blog included, thought that CSLEA would be the last union to reach a contract in 2010 because of the infamous "whore" incident, but that distinction went to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Still, the fallout from the campaign incident continued long after the election. And the special agents, wardens and park rangers it covers are on a never-ending quest to split away from CSLEA, convinced that their pay is being held back by the union's representation of non-sworn employees in the union, such as dairy inspectors.

June 27, 2013
What California state workers earn: Highway Patrol officers

RB_Cellphone_0001.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

In a move underscoring its emphasis on long-term security, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen accepted furloughs last year in exchange for a five-year extension of the contract that would have expired next month.

Although the officers' union contract isn't up for negotiation until 2018, we thought it only fair to run the numbers on what they earn:

June 26, 2013
What California state workers earn: State lawyers

LS_ALBERTA_LEE_UC_Davis_Law_Library.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

California's state attorneys are paid far less than their counterparts in local governments and the private sector. The union, one of the smallest bargaining units in the state, for years has argued for pay parity with little success.

In the last few years the union has taken a different tack by aggressively fighting contracts that outsource legal work it says should go to its members.

Here are pay numbers for California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment , Bargaining Unit 2:

June 24, 2013
What California state workers earn: SEIU Local 1000, part 2

San_Quentin_State_Prison_Nurse.jpgBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is looking at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data cover the calendar years 2011 and 2012.

SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 15, 17, 20 and 21. (Click here for info about Local 1000 units 1, 3, 4, 11 and 14.)

Now, SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 15, 17, 20, and 21.

June 21, 2013
What California state workers earn: SEIU Local 1000, part 1

JM_STATE_DIGITAL_ARCHIVE.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is taking a first-ever look at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data cover the calendar years of 2011 and 2012.

First up: SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 1, 3, 4, 11 and 14.

June 20, 2013
Column Extra: The cost of California state workers' step raises

The State Worker column in today's Bee references several numbers about employee compensation costs as it lays out arguments against the 4.5 percent raise in the new SEIU Local 1000 deal.

One articulated by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff is that state workers' automatic raises have continued all along, even during California's darkest budgetary years. The interactive chart above depicts those costs.

Remember, the numbers reflect only the incremental expenses for each budget cycle, so the data doesn't roll the costs forward from one year to the next. The controller's office crunched the numbers for the Republicans in April 2011, so the data for that year doesn't cover all 12 months of the budget cycle. That's why we didn't refer to it in today's column.

The numbers also cover step raises for all employees and the cost to both general funds and special funds.

Republicans also reviewed several years of budget info and concluded that payroll costs grew a cumulative $9.9 billion from 2006-07 through 2011-12.Here's a breakdown of their analysis.

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

June 18, 2013
CalPERS committee unveils health premium rates for 2014

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGA CalPERS committee today recommended 2014 health insurance rates that collectively increase premiums by 3.03 percent, the lowest benefit increase since 1998.

The Pension and Health Benefits Committee's recommendations include an average increase of nearly 6 percent for some plans while lowering prices for some Medicare coverages by almost 9 percent.

Premiums for the fund's Basic HMO coverage will increase by a combined average 3.81 percent next year while Medicare HMO plans will see a 5.76 percent hike.

The cost of CalPERS' Basic preferred provider organization plans will increase by an average 2.51 percent next year. Medicare PPOrates will fall an average 8.7 percent.

Premiums for health plans covering Highway Patrol officers, correctional officers and other law enforcement personnel are set to increase by an average 5.98 percent for the basic plans and 2.22 percent for Medicare coverages.

The fund's full Board of Administration will vote on the 2014 premium schedules on Wednesday. If approved, the new rates take effect Jan. 1, 2014

The system spends $7 billion annually on health care and its 2013 premiums rose an average of 9.6 percent over last year, the biggest rate hike in years.

Earlier this year in an effort to hold down costs, CalPERS ended Blue Shield of California's virtual monopoly of the fund's HMO business. Next year, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Sharp and United Health Care will get some of the 400,000 or so members who have HMO coverage through the fund.

These links provide more details about today's news:

June 17, 2013
California finance director will decide when state raises kick in

matosantos.jpgState workers, welcome to the back of the line.

The tentative agreement covering 95,000 state employees represented by SEIU Local 1000 includes a 4.5 percent raise spread over two years starting in mid-2014.

But the deal includes a contingency that puts employee pay raises below the state's other obligations and leaves it to the finance director, currently Ana Matosantos, to make the decision.

Here's the caveat in the Local 1000 tentative agreement posted online last week:

May 16, 2013
Survey: Governments rely less on hiring freezes and pay cuts

A new survey finds that "the picture is brightening" for the state and local government civil service workforce as fewer employers resort to hiring freezes and layoffs -- although they're continuing to whittle away at employee benefits costs.

About one-third of state and local governments told the non-profit Center for State & Local Government Excellence that they're freezing pay this year. That's down from 51 percent in 2012.

Just 18 percent of government employers said they're laying off workers, compared to 28 percent that axed jobs last year.

Governments have continued making changes to health and retirement benefits, with 56 percent modifying health benefits in 2013 and 44 percent altering retirement programs. The change most often cited in both areas: shifting cost from the employer to the employee through higher contributions.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of employers surveyed said their retirement-eligible employees accelerated their retirement plans this year, the same as 2012.

Here are the survey results in detail. Click here to view the 2012 report for comparison.

May 10, 2013
University of California wants court to stop hospital strike

130419-UC-Davis-Med-Center-Pench-2012.jpgThe University of California said today that it will ask a judge to keep hospital workers from striking later this month.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says its members will walk off the job at the university system's five hospitals May 21 and May 22.

UC officials and the union have been in negotiations since last summer for a new contract covering some 13,000 patient care workers. The contract expired Oct. 1, and the contentious talks deadlocked earlier this year.

AFSCME says it's fighting to fix unsafe hospital conditions and foolish spending by high-level university officials who enrich themselves while seeking cuts to employee compensation.

The university counters that the union's real aim is to avoid new state laws that significantly reduce retirement benefits for new pension-system members.

This isn't the first time that AFSCME Local 3299 has threatened a walkout. In 2008, the union called a strike at all five UC medical centers. A San Francisco Superior Court judge issued a restraining order. The union ignored it and walked off the job for five days in July that year.

April 26, 2013
Jerry Brown administration forbids dual jobs for managers

130426-1515-s-street-amezcua-2009.jpgWith an investigation into salaried state workers also earning hourly wages nearing a conclusion, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has officially banned "additional appointments" for California state managers and supervisors.

"As members of the management team, employees in supervisory and managerial classes can reasonably be expected to perform work as needed to ensure that a department meets its mission," Julie Chapman, director of the California Department of Human Resources, says in the policy memo released late Thursday. "A manager should be expected to fulfill a wide range of duties not normally part of their assignment and classification without additional compensation."

The memo comes amid investigations by the Brown administration and the State Personnel Board into whether departments abused additional appointments. The state started looking into the policy after The Sacramento Bee reported that 571 managers and supervisors in nearly a dozen departments also held other hourly-pay jobs in their same departments.

Brown issued a broad order that halted the practice pending the investigation, which the departments intend to conclude next month. The new memo sets a permanent policy.

Chapman's memo also reminds departments they can pay managers an "arduous pay" differential for working extreme hours. Arduous pay ranges from $300 to $1,200 per month. Departments decide when an employees qualify and how much they receive.

And the memo suggests several other established policy options to additional appointments as a way to meet heavy workloads and crushing deadlines -- using non-managers, including mandatory overtime, shifting employees between similar job classifications and limited-duration job and training assignments.

California Department of Human Resources Additional Appointments Memo

PHOTO CREDIT: The building at 1515 S St. in Sacramento, which houses the California Department of Human Resources. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2009

April 22, 2013
California retiree health measure fails in committee

130422-walters-Jeff-Gritchen-AP-2013-file.JPGA measure that would have forced future California state employees pay more for their retiree health insurance and wait longer to qualify for it died in a Senate committee Monday afternoon.

The five-member Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee voted down Senate Bill 774 along party lines, 3-2.

The measure, written by Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, would have applied only to state workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

Those future employees would have had to work 15 years to qualify for 50 percent of their retiree health-benefit costs and 25 years for 100 percent coverage. Currently the threshold is 10 years for half coverage and 20 years for full coverage.

Employees hired after the measure would have taken effect also would have had to share equally in prefunding the normal cost of their retiree health benefits. And the states would have been prohibited from providing their retiree health benefits unless they were fully funded.

Unlike its pension obligations, California doesn't save ahead for future retiree health costs. The pay-as-you go method will cost the state an estimated $1.81 billion this year. The state controller figures the debt on future benefits for current employees and retirees stands at $63.9 billion in current dollars.

March 14, 2013
State worker database now includes 2012 civil service pay

RCB_20121127 WEATHER_0145.JPGThe Sacramento Bee state worker pay database has been updated and now includes 2012 civil service pay. California state worker payroll remained flat from 2011 to 2012, as the workforce shrunk slightly and overtime pay declined.

Use the database to search all civil service salaries through 2012. University salaries through 2011 are available now; check back later for 2012 salaries from the University of California and California State University systems.

Find the state worker database at www.sacbee.com/statepay.

February 21, 2013
Brown aide defends pension reform for mass-transit workers

Thumbnail image for 130221 Morgenstern.JPGA top administration official has weighed in on a federal fight over the public pension law Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year law and whether it puts at risk billions of federal grant dollars.

In a letter last week, Brown's Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern told the U.S. Department of Labor that the new pension law doesn't diminish mass-transit workers' collective bargaining rights, a prerequisite of the federal money.

"My legal staff and I have reviewed this matter carefully," Morgenstern wrote, concluding the law "merely modifies" the public pension plans that state and local government employers can offer.

The Public Employee Pension Reform Act caps benefits, hikes employee contributions and offers less generous formulas for employees hired Jan. 1 and later. Unions representing roughly 20,000 mass-transit workers in California contend the benefit terms that must be negotiated, not imposed.

January 23, 2013
Poll: What do you think about CalPERS' dual-appointments?

Now that CalPERS has suspended its practice of appointing some managers to second rank-and-file jobs that pay hourly wages, we'd like to know what you think of the policy.

If you missed the story, you can catch up here:
Jan. 17: Some CalPERS managers given second jobs, extra money
Jan. 18: Lawmakers say they will probe dual jobs of California state workers
Jan. 19: CalPERS suspends extra pay program for managers


January 17, 2013
DMV says it spoke too soon about employees with two jobs

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is doing a U-turn.

After asserting otherwise this afternoon, officials at the high-profile agency now say they may have spoken too soon when they denied hiring any of their own employees for two jobs within the same department.

CalPERS suggested that DMV and three other departments may have used "additional appointments," a practice at the pension fund reported today by The Bee. DMV previously said it hasn't employed the double appointments, then it pulled back.

"Our previous statement may have been premature," DMV spokesman Armando E. Botello said in an email received by The Bee at 4 p.m.. "We are conducting a more thorough review of our records to determine whether the situation has occurred."

While state policy allows state workers paid an hourly wage to hold two state jobs at once, it's not clear whether CalPERS' decision to give salaried managers additional hourly jobs and pay is proper. The fund said it began the practice in 2011 to cope with crushing workloads created by the launch of a $514 million computer system.

January 17, 2013
Lawmakers to investigate CalPERS' hourly jobs for managers

MC_PEREZ_03.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assemblyman Rob Bonta called news of CalPERS paying salaried employees additional hourly wages "disturbing" in a joint press statement released this afternoon and promised to look further into the practice.

January 17, 2013
DMV says it hasn't given employees second paid positions

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGUPDATE 5:28 p.m.: DMV says it spoke too soon about employees with two jobs

Although CalPERS thought otherwise, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman said today that DMV doesn't give its employees dual positions in the department to ease workloads.

During interviews and email exchanges with The Bee for today's report on CalPERS salaried managers earning extra money for hourly work, a fund spokesman said officials there believed that the practice is "relatively common" among state employers.

January 17, 2013
Column Extra: Jerry Brown versus unions over holiday pay

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee updates the lengthy court battle over disciplinary threats made against state workers who might stay home on Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day, even though the state dropped those occasions from its paid holiday list in 2009.

As our column explains, the tussle between Gov. Jerry Brown and three unions isn't in appellate court because of a dispute between labor and management over whether the holidays were legally removed. It's a question of whether this provision of the Dills Act was violated.

The unions won the first round in Sacramento Superior Court. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , the state's employer-in-chief at the time, appealed. Brown has kept the appeal going.

Click here to see the 3rd District Court of Appeal calendar of the case.

Here's the original verdict by Sacramento Judge Timothy Frawley that the administration is challenging:

January 15, 2013
Top 10 posts of 2012: Lawmakers reach public pension deal

Thumbnail image for countdown 1.JPGThis is the last in a series counting down this year's most-viewed State Worker blog posts, with a little hindsight analysis.

Events that seem momentous at the time often are partially or completely undone by subsequent events or simply time's passage. How many high school buddies fade into memory's mist? How many marriages end in divorce?

It's especially true in politics: A century of legal race discrimination followed the passage of the 13th Amendment. More recently in California, voters passed Proposition 8, which is then challenged in the courts and could be undone there or by another ballot initiative.

While not nearly as socially significant as slavery or same-sex marriage, public pension changes in California have a similar here-today-gone-tomorrow history. Over the last 25 years, the benefit has become a political football, with state and local officials of all stripes playing one side or the other, approving benefits, pulling them back, rewriting laws or undoing them as the politics of the moment dictate.

On Aug. 28, about an hour before Gov. Jerry Brown formally announced it, The Bee broke the news that he had reached an agreement with lawmakers on pension reform. The announcement ended -- for now, anyway -- a four-year public debate over public employee retirement benefits waged by Republicans, pension reformers, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office and the Little Hoover Commission.

Now, just a few weeks into the latest pension-change law, there's controversy brewing over how it should be applied after CalPERS sent a list to employer members in December that views nearly 100 varieties of pay beyond base wages to be pensionable.

How will history view the deal first reported by The Bee in this post? A passing political fad or a permanent pension fixture?

Here's the most viewed State Worker item of 2012: Jerry Brown, Democrats reach deal on public pension overhaul.

January 14, 2013
Columnist, CalPERS lock horns over implementing pension law

Columnist, CalPERS lock horns over implementing pension law

Storified by Jon Ortiz· Mon, Jan 14 2013 08:42:39

Over the weekend, Bay Area News Group columnist Dan Borenstein went bonkers over a Dec. 27 CalPERS memo to employer members that delineates nearly 100 varieties of pay that the fund's staff concluded fall under the definition of "normal compensation" for purposes of calculating pensionable income. 

The definition matters because it's key to implementing the state and local pension reform measure that took effect on Jan. 1. Borenstein says including all those pay extras leaves the door open to pension spiking. 

CalPERS' three-day Board of Administration meeting in Monterey starts today and implementing the new law is on the three-day agenda.
Daniel Borenstein: CalPERS planning to gut a key cost-control provision of new pension lawBy administrative fiat, the California Public Employees' Retirement System has undermined a key anti-spiking provision of the new state p...
CalPERS response: It's a preliminary interpretation based on consultation with lawmakers who wrote and supported the legislation. CalPERS already has stiff anti-spiking rules in place and the new law's cap on pensionable income adds another layer.

Borenstein's "personal bias and crusade against public employee pensions once again got the best of him," the fund said in this letter to the editor and published on CalPERS' website.
Dan Borenstein's Crusade Against Public Pensions Gets the Best of Him and Misleads ReadersDan Borenstein is one of the few columnists that understands many of the complexities of public pensions but his personal bias and crusad...
Here's the list:
Here's the letter to employers:
Here's the board's agenda. The pension matter is set for discussion on Wednesday:

January 8, 2013
Legislation adds a paid holiday to California government calendar

State workers would get back a holiday they lost four years ago under the terms of legislation introduced Monday by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina.

The government would shut down for Native American Day on the second Monday in October, replacing what used to be the Columbus Day paid holiday on the state calendar.

If the measure becomes law, it would restore a portion of what lawmakers took away from state workers in 2009 when they thinned the state schedule from 13 paid holidays to the current 11 by axing Columbus Day and Lincoln's Birthday. Eventually, state workers received two floating days off each year that offset the lost holidays.

From the Hernández press release announcing the measure:

"This legislation is inspired by the recognition that the so-called discovery of the America's by Columbus eventually led to the genocide of Native Americans. This bill hence provides the proper respect and recognition to our Native American nations."

January 3, 2013
Top 10 posts of 2012: SEIU Local 1000 agrees to furloughs

countdown 6.JPGThis is the latest in a series counting down this year's most-viewed State Worker blog posts, with a little hindsight analysis.

The 6th most-viewed State Worker blog post reported that SEIU Local 1000 and Gov. Jerry Brown had reached an agreement that cut one day's hours and pay per month for the final year of the union's contract.

In exchange, Local 1000 and Brown agreed to terminate student assistants and retired annuitants. Neither group is represented. The governor and the local also agreed to set up a task force on wasteful state outsourcing.

December 31, 2012
Airtime window closes today; higher taxes on Jan. 1 checks

An era ends today when CalPERS stops taking applications for additional retirement service credit purchases. Meanwhile, Jan. 1 state paychecks for workers paying into Social Security will reflect a new 2 percent tax increase on wages .

Starting tomorrow, CalPERS members can no longer buy up to five years of additional service time for purposes of pension calculations. Applications for airtime must be time-stamped by CalPERS' mail room by 5 p.m. today.

It's an expensive benefit, but a pretty good deal for those who can afford it, since the money is guaranteed by the fund to give the same return on investment that CalPERS assumed on its investments when the purchase was made.

For members who have applied for a cost estimate since Mar. 15, the guaranteed rate of return is 7.5 percent.

Few state workers will be hit by airtime's end, but most state workers who received their pay via direct deposit today have already noticed that their Social Security tax has gone from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent.

The increase anticipated the end on New Year's Day of a 2 percent payroll tax cut for Social Security. Even though the Jan. 1 paychecks are for the December pay period, IRS instructions say the rate change affects state paychecks issued on Jan. 1.

Here's the memo from State Controller John Chiang's office that explains the situation in more detail:

December 29, 2012
Top 10 posts of 2012: Public pension ballot measure dies

countdown 9.JPG This is the latest in a series counting down this year's most-viewed State Worker blog posts, with a little hindsight analysis.

The latest push to end defined-benefit public pension plans officially died on Feb. 8 with the announcement that a ballot measure campaign to alter public retirement plans was suspended.

The announcement took pressure off lawmakers to quickly act on their own pension reform plan to counter California Pension Reform's measure. When the Legislature finally rolled out AB 340 at the end of the 2011-12 session, the bill put a six-figure cap on defined benefit pensions instead of ending them.

The February news also meant that unions a would be able to put everything they had into defeating Proposition 32, the campaign finance reform initiative that did make the Nov. 6 ballot, and supporting Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30.

Here's your pass to a stroll down memory lane with our 9th most-viewed post: California pension reform group suspends initiative campaign

December 27, 2012
Column Extra video: Roger Dickinson cautions prospective public employees

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

This week's column springs from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's hour-long visit with the Bee Capitol Bureau's reporters last week. During the discussion we asked the Sacramento Democrat what advice he would give to someone considering a career in state service.

We expected he would focus on the usual "P-words" that come up in government job discussions: "pensions" or "pay." Instead he surprised us with a different word: "privacy."

Here's a snippet of what Dickinson said:

November 14, 2012
Revamped California public pay site offers more data and utility

121114 govt pay database1.jpgA California state-run website that tracks state and local government employee compensation relaunched this week with major upgrades that aim to make the data more accessible to the public.

The refurbished site, publicpay.ca.gov, includes maps, simple search engines and even allows users to build their own custom reports, compare pay rates and download raw numbers for their own research. The State Controller's Office, which maintains the site, says it includes the latest state and local compensation data available -- 2011 for state and higher education, 2010 for cities, counties and special districts.

It's the first time that the numbers include wages and benefit data for 69 of the state's 72 community college districts.

Unlike The Bee's state pay database, however, the SCO's data doesn't include the names of individual employees.

The site "does remain a work in progress, and my office will continue to improve and expand this public pay project," Controller John Chiang said in a news release marking the relaunch.

Click here to open publicpay.ca.gov. You can view a menu of video tutorials about how to use the site by clicking here.

IMAGE: The report-building page on the state controller's revamped government employee compensation website. / www.publicpay.ca.gov

November 7, 2012
Now that Prop. 32 has lost and Prop. 30 has won, what next?

As we reported in the wee hours this morning, Proposition 32 has lost and Proposition 30, Jerry Brown's tax increase measure, has won.

When we asked State Worker blog users last week to forecast the votes on the politically linked measures, 34 percent of you correctly predicted the outcome.

Now here's a new question for you to ponder:


October 12, 2012
Court overturns raises for SEIU Local 1000-represented medical staff

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgSacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal today ruled for the state and against SEIU Local 1000 in a dispute over pay raises for Corrections Department medical staff.

An arbitrator and a superior court judge had ruled that the negotiated raises were valid. The appellate court said today that the raises weren't valid because the Legislature didn't sign off on them.

SEIU Local 1000 declined to comment on the ruling.

The case dates back to 2006 and agreements negotiated between then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Local 1000.

October 4, 2012
Column Extra: Three cheers for union workers!

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee mentions a few lessons that public employees can draw from the events leading to the recent NFL labor agreement with the union that represents its referees. When you strip away the sports entertainment aspect of the story, what's left is a private-sector union representing 121 part-time entertainment regulators who have been earning an average $149,000 per year with pension benefits.

The public would be appalled with those terms in a public-sector union contract, but as the video below shows, football fans absolutely gushed when the refs' lockout ended last week. We assume that most didn't know the new deal increases referees' average annual pay by 38 percent over seven years, offset by a phase-out of defined benefit pensions. And if fans did know, would they care?

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

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

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

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

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 30, 2012
The parks investigation: State official says she warned against leave buyouts

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

The Bee broke the story of the leave cash-out program, which spurred a subsequent revelation that parks squirreled away millions of dollars while also threatening to close facilities due to extreme budget pressure.

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

Person interviewed: Helen Carriker
Job classification: Deputy director, Department of Fish and Game
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Mar. 29, 2012
Notable quote: "I said you can't do that without getting approval to do it. That's something you just cannot do. It's, you know, a big deal. It's union issues and all sorts of stuff. You can't just pay it." - Carriker's recollection, transcribed on page 6, of what she told Manuel Lopez and another parks official when they asked about the propriety of buying back staff leave time.
Carriker Interview 2012-3-29

August 29, 2012
Reaction pours in to public pension reform plan

A roundup of press statements about the new public pension reform proposal announced Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown:

Rob Feckner, president, CalPERS Board of Administration:

The Conference Committee's proposed legislation is the result of a thorough process involving multiple hearings across the state. We thank the Committee for its commitment to hear the views and ideas of all stakeholders and wish to recognize those that have contributed to the process.

According to news reports, many of the elements of the legislation announced today, including anti-spiking legislation, a strong definition of pay rate, and prohibitions against retroactive pension enhancements, will go a long way to ensure sustainability of the retirement fund, reduce abuse and add protections, ease administration, and reduce pension costs over time.

August 29, 2012
Read the California public pension reform bill

Here's the measure approved Tuesday night by majority Democrats on the Legislature's six-member conference committee on pension reform:

August 28, 2012
Unions blast California public pension reform plan

Labor unions wasted no time bashing the pension reform unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning as a unilaterally-imposed political exercise that needlessly guts state and local public employees' retirement for hundreds of thousands of workers.

"This is far more than 'low hanging fruit,'" said Dave Low, chairman of union coalition Californians for Retirement Security in statement issued while Brown was still holding a pension press conference in Los Angeles just before noon. "This is the fruit, the branch, the tree trunk, and the roots."

What particularly rankles labor leaders, however, was that none of this was bargained.

August 24, 2012
Column Extra: Judge says Stockton bankruptcy can break retiree health guarantees

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Writing is often as much about deciding what to leave out as it is what to put in. One of the items we decided to cut from Thursday's State Worker column was a reference to Association of Retired Employees of the City of Stockton v. City of Stockton. The case is significant because it signals the court's view of contract and pension law vs. bankruptcy law.

Association of Retired Employees of the City of Stockton v. City of Stockton

August 24, 2012
Sacramento Bee updates California state worker pay database

Thumbnail image for 100830 checkbook2.gifThe Bee's Phillip Reese, who maintains our state worker pay database, has updated the site with $10.6 billion worth of 2011 salaries from the University of California system. Click here to access what has become the go-to source for publicly available state employee wage information.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

August 22, 2012
The parks documents: the Elsie Brenneman interviews

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

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

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Person interviewed: Elsie Brenneman
Job classification: Parks budget officer
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interviews:Feb. 23, 2012, and Mar. 9, 2012 (click the link below to access)
Notable quote: "I just figured -- I assumed it was there personal information so why would they feel the need to share it, but if they wanted to, it was their information." - Brenneman on page 17 of the Feb. 23 interview explaining why she spread word of the parks leave buyout plan verbally and not in writing.
Brenneman Interview 2012-2-23

August 22, 2012
Republican Sen. Mimi Walters predicts pension legislation won't be 'comprehensive'


California Edition host Brad Pomerance recently opened his show with a 13-minute interview with state Sen. Mimi Walters discussing public employee pensions.

Walters is a member of the conference committee tasked with crafting pension legislation. State Senate and Assembly leaders have said they will come up with a bill before the current session closes at the end of this month.

Midway through the interview Pomerance asks, "Do you believe that we will see some form of pension reform in this legislative year?"

Walters: "I believe we will see a form of pension reform. Will it be comprehensive? No. Will it make major changes to the issues that we're facing wth pensions? No. I believe that this Legislature will do something to say, 'Hey we took care of a couple of the abuses and now let's hope this issue goes away.'"

Pomerance: "Is something better than nothing, or is nothing better? Because if you do something it won't address the real fundamental problem."

Walters: "My concern is if we just do a little something, it won't address the fundamental concerns that we're facing -- and the issue may very well go away."

A separate interview about voting rights and legislation starts at the 14-minute mark with Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles.

August 22, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Robert Bonner interview

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

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

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Person interviewed: Robert Bonner
Job classification: State Parks labor relations manager
Interviewed by: Corrine Murphy, Justice Department deputy attorney general, and Angela Nowicki, Superintendent II, State Parks Law Enforcement Emergency Services
Date of interview:Feb. 24, 2012
Notable quote: "The 'gray zone' is -- my understanding is those areas of policy that aren't really detailed in policy. ... And that's an area, you know, you certainly want to be careful because while there are no guidelines for how you're operating, for your -- one way or another, you can certainly get yourself into some problems." - Bonner's explanation on page 17 when asked whether he was familiar with the term, "the gray zone."
Bonner Interview 2012-2-24

August 21, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Lynn Black interview

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

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

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

On Feb. 23, 2012, investigators interviewed Lynn Black, who had been an administrative assistant to parks Deputy Director Manuel Lopez before he was demoted. In her seven years on the job at the time of the interview, "I've had seven bosses in seven years," she said.

The interview dissects meetings and conversations about the leave program. At one point Black says that other divisions in parks had heard about the leave program. After Lopez left his deputy position, he called Black to thank her for a favor she did for him. During the conversation, Black recalled, Lopez said, "I feel like I let everybody down."

Click here to read the Lynn Black interview.

August 21, 2012
The parks investigation documents: Read the audit

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

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

This post is the next in a series intended to make all of those 38 documents readily accessible to the public within the next few days.

Authur J. Lee, the parks department audits office chief, made several findings in this 14-page report:

• Parks leave buyback was not properly authorized by the state's human resources department.
• The personnel service section of the parks department executed a similar $197, 937 leave cash out in 2008. Like the latest cash out, that one lacked sufficient documentation and "does not appear to be in complete compliance" with state rules.
• The department also launched a questionable leave buyout plan for Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation division that paid $111,645, including $20,598 paid to a superintendent.
• Leave payments were taken out of money budgeted for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Auditors were "astonished" that Manuel Thomas Lopez, chief of the administrative services division and the person who launched the leave buyback plan, cashed out more that four weeks of vacation pay in August 2011 using 2011-12 budget dollars after cashing out nearly nine weeks of leave for $19,135 a few months earlier.

Parks Personnel Officer Jason Summers responded to the audit in a letter dated Mar. 27, 2012:

"As a result of the finding and recommendations in your audit report, the Personnel Section and Administrative Division have taken the following actions to improve processes and procedures regarding leave buy back as well as clarify and communicate to staff the Division's expectations for professional excellence, integrity and personal responsibility.

On Aug. 3, Summers was demoted for his involvement. He and two other parks officials were disciplined for "inexcusable neglect of duty," "misuse of state property" and "failure of good behavior" for their roles in the leave scheme.

Audit of Internal Controls Over Leave Buy Back

August 16, 2012
Column Extra: Read the California state engineers' furlough grievance

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our State Worker column in today's Bee notes that Professional Engineeers in California Government filed a grievance triggered by furloughs started in July. The union claims that the Brown administration violated the PECG contract by suggesting a 2012-13 budget that funds only 95 percent of their members' wages.

The then-Department of Personnel Administration (now dubbed the Department of Human Resources), said that the June 4 grievance was "premature" because it was filed before the July 1 start of furloughs so that no union members had suffered a loss.

The administration also said that Brown was acting in his role as governor in presenting a budget plan, not as the state's employer. Therefore, the administration said, Brown didn't violate the union's contract.

PECG attorney Gerald James asked for arbitration to keep the association's options open, but hasn't pushed the matter any further, union spokesman Ryan Endean said Wednesday.

PECG Jun4, 2012, furlough grievance and related correspondence

August 14, 2012
Business group backs Jerry Brown's pension reform plan

Thumbnail image for Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgWith Democrats promising pension reform legislation by the end of this month, a statewide business group is pushing lawmakers to accept Gov. Jerry Brown's 12-point plan to change state and local retirement benefits.

In a letter to the governor and lawmakers on Monday, 15 members of the Regional Economic Association Leaders Coalition called the Brown plan "an important first step toward returning our pension obligations to a state of fiscal sustainability."

August 13, 2012
Study: Changing state and local pension benefits 'extremely difficult' but possible

Many states, including California, may have more legal wiggle room to alter retirement promises for current employees than commonly thought, according to a new survey of state and local pensions by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Researchers Alicia H. Munnell and Laura Quinby conclude that "the protection accorded pension benefits is less embedded in state constitutions and more open to interpretation than commonly perceived." If state courts and legislatures narrow "the current definition of the employer-employee contract to establish that the contract is created when the employee performs the service," then it would become possible to reduce retirement benefits for current workers prospectively, the authors conclude.

Munnell and Quinby say only three states - Alaska, Illnois and New York - have constitutions that clearly protect public pensions for current workers both retrospectively and prospectively. Arizona's constitution protects pensions "past and maybe future," while those in Hawaii, Louisiana and Mississippi protect only benefits that have been accrued.

California and most states consider pensions legal contracts protected from any laws that impair them. When the contract is considered to take effect is key. Conventional wisdom says that pension contracts in California and other states take effect from the first day of employment.

Munnell said in a recent interview with Pensions & Investments that she expects more states will attempt to redefine their pension obligations once courts rule on recent laws that did so in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

For the vast majority of states, however, changing future benefits for current employees is extremely difficult ...

In the end, however, the ability to modify pensions in these states hinges on when the contract is deemed to exist. States where the contract is found to exist at the time a worker is hired have little freedom to change benefits. States where the contract is found to exist at retirement have considerably more flexibility.

Each state would have to define that for itself, the authors conclude, through both the courts and their legislatures.

Pensions & Investments reports that Munnell thinks more states will move to alter pension benefits for current workers if the courts uphold changes to current employees' pensions enacted in New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Legal Constraints on Changes in State and Local Pensions

August 9, 2012
Column Extra: California's state worker layoff process

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column references the complexity of the state's process for laying off employees. Using the flowchart below, we came up with 14 steps: three before a department announces a layoff and 11 steps during and after -- and that doesn't include what CalHR has to do.

The process is negotiated with unions. Here's a chart that lays it out, backed by nine pages of explanation:

August 7, 2012
Supervisors' group hits Steinberg on legislative staff pay raises

The Association of California State Supervisors wants Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to reverse staff raises, and it is rallying its members to write and call the Sacramento Democrat's offices to tell him so.

A post on its website titled, "Make Steinberg keep his word," noted that the state's No. 2 Democrat said this about public pension reform: "Will it cause some discomfort and unhappiness? Yes. Do you sometimes disagree with your allies and friends to do what you think is the right thing? Yes."

Then the organization, a nonunion advocate for state government managers and supervisors, performs a little political judo:

We couldn't agree with Sen. Steinberg's sentiment more: Doing the right thing sometimes causes discomfort and unhappiness.

That is why ACSS is calling on Sen. Steinberg to stop underhanded dealing to his allies and friends in the Legislature and start the difficult cuts he touts publicly by rescinding the raises he approved for employees in the Legislature after slashing your salary by 5%.

... Take a moment to let him know via email or calls to his office.

The supervisors' group is ticked over a recent Bee review of payroll records finding that at least 93 California legislative employees who earn more than $100,000 received raises this year and that more than 900 employees at all pay levels received pay hikes. The 120-member Legislature employs about 2,220 staff members.

That adds a bit of a sting for state workers whose pay and hours have been cut by nearly 5 percent since July 1. An ACSS poll of its members found that nearly six in 10 think the pay raises should be taken away.

August 6, 2012
Clock starts on deadline for Jerry Brown to appeal state worker furlough case

Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgGov. Jerry Brown must decide by the end of next month whether to keep fighting state engineers and scientists over a recent furlough lawsuit he lost or pay $12 million in back wages to settle accounts.

It's not clear whether Brown will appeal. California Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said this morning that state attorneys hadn't yet discussed the matter.

Brown's window to the appellate court closes 60 days from last Thursday, which was when attorneys for Professional Engineers in California Government and California Association of Professional Scientists filed the final paperwork in PECG v. Brown with Alameda Superior Court Judge Steven Brick.

In June, Brick ruled that some 13,000 PECG and CAPS members were excessively furloughed two days last year. He also decided that about 250 of the unions' members shouldn't have been furloughed at all.

Engineers stand to receive a total $10 million in back pay, said Ryan Endean, who speaks for both PECG and CAPS. Scientists would receive about $2 million total. An appeal by Brown would most likely put the payments on hold while the court fight continues.

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

July 26, 2012
Judge: Lawsuit against CalPERS over California prison receiver pension may proceed

Thumbnail image for kelso.jpegA judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit to proceed against CalPERS over an unusual work arrangement that allows California Prison Receiver J. Clark Kelso to continue accruing state pension benefits even though his position was established by a federal court and he answers to a federal judge.

As we have previously reported, Daniel E. Francis v. CalPERS contends that Kelso's employment agreement illegally washes his pay through the state Administrative Office of the Courts so that the money can be factored into his CalPERS pension. Kelso has said the arrangement, while unusual, was vetted, is above board and legal.

Francis, the plaintiff, is a retired state worker and therefore a CalPERS member. CalPERS had argued he had no standing to sue. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled that Francis had the right to pursue the lawsuit as a taxpayer.

That decision means that the litigation can now focus on whether Kelso is a state worker on loan from the AOC to the federal court or a federal employee with an illegal pension-spiking arrangement. The receivership corporation reimburses the AOC for Kelso's pay and benefits. Ultimately, the state pays the receivership's costs.

Here's Kenny's ruling from last week:

July 20, 2012
Only about 5 percent of SEIU Local 1000 voted for furlough ratification

120508 Yvonne Walker 2008 brian baer.JPGAbout 5 percent of the 93,000 workers represented by SEIU Local 1000 voted for a recent agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown that included a new round of furloughs for one year.

According to union sources familiar with the June 27 vote, 7,223 members cast ballots. Local 1000 officials didn't respond to several requests to confirm or deny the number. On July 3 the unions did announce that 65.76 percent of the votes supported the agreement. That means 4,750 Local 1000 members supported the deal.

The side-letter ratification process was unusual for several reasons.

July 19, 2012
Column Extra: Arnold Schwarzenegger's pitch on banking leave

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's column looks at the Parks Department leave scandal as a failure of management. In fact, if you talk to anyone who has looked at the issue of excessive state leave accrual, a common comment you'll hear is that it's primarily a management problem.

State policymakers have been talking about fixing it for years. Here's a proposal that the old Department of Personnel Administration made to SEIU Local 1000 back in 2005. The same proposal went out to all the unions that year, but it fell flat. The unions pointed out that the growing leave-balance problem was a management issue, not a rank-and-file problem. Managers pushed back. The idea fell flat.

Side note: The two sides did eventually agree that year on using a highest three-year average to calculate pensions for future hires.

Scroll down to Article 8 at the top of page 3:
DPA's 2005 bargaining proposals to SEIU Local 1000

July 18, 2012
California Senate freezes wages following pay raise

From Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced plans Wednesday for a one-year pay freeze for Senate employees, but the move comes in the wake of a recent pay hike for hundreds of the chamber's aides.

Read the rest of Jim's report on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

July 16, 2012
Poll: Does the state cap leave or just pay lip service to policy?

The Bee's Matt Weiser reports that a former Parks and Recreation Department manager ran a secret leave cash-out program that funneled more than a quarter-million dollars to 56 employees, including more than $20,000 to himself.

The story is a reminder that rules and policies are only as effective as the people who enforce them.

Which brings us to our poll question:


July 13, 2012
A look back at Jerry Brown's furlough history
July 12, 2012
Column Extra Part 1: Inside the legal argument against California state worker furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published each Thursday.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee notes that for the first time since furloughs became a regular feature in state budgets three years ago, the government has imposed them on employees who are under contract.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown negotiated furloughs with 19 of the 21 bargaining units representing state workers, two haven't gone along: Professional Engineers in California Government (Unit 9) and International Union of Operating Engineers (Unit 13).

The governor has used authority bestowed on him by the Legislature to impose a one-day-per-month furlough on the holdouts. Now the questions are whether the either union will sue and what the basis of a lawsuit might be.

July 11, 2012
Jerry Brown administration issues furlough orders for holdout California state worker unions

blanning.jpegIt's official. Gov. Jerry Brown has accomplished what his predecessor couldn't: All state workers under the governor's authority are now furloughed.

Despite Brown's long-time criticism of furloughs as a bad business practice for the state, his Department of Human Resources (the former Department of Personnel Administration) last week issued a memo to government personnel officers detailing how to execute a 4.62-percent cut in the hours and pay for employees whose unions didn't negotiate a salary reduction with Brown.

The memo applies to about 11,000 state engineers in Bargaining Unit 9, most of whom work for Caltrans, and another 900 or so heavy machinery operators in Bargaining Unit 13.

Although the state's furlough memo applies retroactively to July 1, the Brown administration is still open to a negotiated reduction, said CalHR spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley.

"We've certainly left the door open," Jolley said.

Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, said that the union is continuing to talk with the Brown administration. In the meantime, it has told members to comply with the furlough policy, even though PECG may later fight it in court.

"We've told them to take days off if they're told to," Blanning said. "Obey now, grieve later. Anything else would be insubordination."

Still, Blanning said, "We'd prefer to work it out."

July 9, 2012
CalPERS state employees retirement rate slows in first half of 2012

The number of California state workers retiring for the first six months of 2012 is down from this time last year, according to CalPERS data.

Through the middle of June this year 5,612 CalPERS members had retired, compared to 5,903 during the same period last year.

In the last three months, the retirement rate has remained fairly consistent with the same period last year. The number of California state workers drawing pension checks in June was down just .86 percent from last year. In April the number was down 2.79 percent. In May it was up 5.47 percent.

This marks a large change from March, when 61.48 percent more people drew pension checks than did so in March 2011.

In January, 28.21 percent fewer people retired compared to the previous year. This marked a significant change to the total number of retirees for the year because this January only 1,970 state workers retired, opposed to 2,744 in 2011 and 2,647 in 2010. Most state workers choose to retire at the end of the year, which counts in the January retirement figures.

In February, however, 45.7 percent more retired than the previous year.

Click the tabs at the bottom of the above spreadsheet to see more charts and data about CalPERS retirement figures.

Hannah Madans contributed to this report.

July 5, 2012
Column Extra poll: More state labor concessions down the road?

Today's State Worker column looks ahead at what accepting furloughs while under contract means for state employee unions next year.

Our conclusion: Unless voters approve Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike on the November ballot, state employees will likely face more furloughs in the 2013-14 budget year. If the unions were willing to do it while under contract this year, how can they resist pay reductions next year when nearly all bargaining units' agreements expire July 1, 2 or 3, 2013?



July 3, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 members vote to accept furloughs

SEIU Local 1000 has announced that 65.76 percent of its members have approved a furlough agreement reached with Gov. Jerry Brown last month that assigns them them 12 unpaid days off over the fiscal year that started on Sunday.

The union announced the results on its website this morning, a day later than it had promised last week when it announced that members would have one day to vote at one of more than 80 polling places around the state. It did not release the raw tally of the votes in its announcement this morning.

"Because Local 1000 chose to negotiate with the governor rather than let our members be subject to imposed furloughs, we were able to achieve important solutions that went beyond a pay reduction in exchange for time off," Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said in a statement posted this morning on the union's website.

The agreement requires the state to purge its payroll of all student assistants and "non mission-critical" retired annuitants by Sept. 1. The state won't hire either again while Local 1000-covered workers are on furlough.

The deal also sets up a task force that will regularly review outsourced service contracts.

The vote affirms a cost-cutting move that the Brown administration estimates will save the state some $839 million, about $401 million of that payroll relief to the general fund. SEIU's agreement is key to achieving the savings because the union covers 93,000 employees, roughly half the state's unionized workforce.

Many state workers were angry when Brown figured those savings into his May budget revision, since they are under two- or three-year contracts that already included a year of furloughs and remain in effect through June of next year.

Some SEIU workers were particularly upset, thinking that Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker had privately assured Brown that she could deliver the pay cut. Walker said that she had suggested going to a four-day, 10-hours-per-day workweek which Brown "tweaked" to a 4/38 schedule. That essentially amounted to a two-hours-per-week furlough that reached the 5 percent pay cut the governor sought.

Eventually, Local 1000 negotiators pressed for a more conventional floating furlough day that cut state employees' monthly pay by nearly 5 percent but allowed some flexibility with when they took the time off. Several other unions had previously agreed to similar furloughs, including, for the first time, groups representing CHP officers and state fire fighters.

June 26, 2012
Defining 'mission critical' retired annuitants in California's state workforce

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

So what's a "mission critical" retired annuitant, anyway?

We'll soon find out. As we've reported, the horse-trading between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000 over furloughs included a mandate that departments purge their payrolls of RAs by Sept. 1. Only those deemed mission critical -- in other words, people whose departure would impair the normal function of the organization -- will be exempt.

June 25, 2012
Rumor of Highway Patrol pay deal spreads false info

chp badge.JPGA persistent rumor is wafting through state government that the California Association of Highway Patrolmen is pushing legislation that would reduce how much they contribute to their pensions.

While The State Worker loves a good pay-and-politics scandal as much as anybody, in this case the rumor is false.

Here's a recent email to The State Worker that succinctly explains the scuttlebutt we've been hearing:

June 25, 2012
Poll: Will SEIU Local 1000 members vote for a pay cut?

As reported here, SEIU Local 1000 will let members cast ballots on Wednesday to register where they stand on a new furlough agreement negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The results of the vote will be announced on July 2. How do you think it will turn out?

June 23, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 reaches tentative furlough agreement with Jerry Brown

California's largest public employees' union has tentatively agreed to accept furlough terms that will reduce employee pay by 5 percent starting July 1, but Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to accomplish the savings with a shortened workweek isn't part of the deal.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000's deal with Brown, announced just a few minutes ago, accepts 12 unpaid leave days over the next 12 months. Although employees' paychecks will show the monthly hit on their wages, they have some flexibility to schedule the time off.

The agreement doesn't affect any other aspect of Local 1000's current contract, including a scheduled 3 percent raise for top-step employees scheduled for July 1, 2013.

The union said members will have a chance to vote on the agreement on Wednesday at one of about 100 polling places set up around the state. The results of the vote will be announced July 2.

Brown also gave Local 1000 two items on its wish list, agreeing to terminate all but the most essential state retired annuitants and student assistants and to set up a task force on state outsourcing.

Departments will have until Sept. 1 to purge retirees and students from their payrolls, with exemptions only for those whose jobs are deemed "mission critical." The state won't hire either during the 12-month furlough period for SEIU-covered workers.

June 14, 2012
CA budget bill deletes state worker furlough language -- for now

Thumbnail image for assembly seal.gifThe Legislature's 2012-13 state budget proposal eliminates language that Gov. Jerry Brown proposed that would have allowed him to furlough or make other payroll-cutting moves against rank-and-file state workers if their unions refused to negotiate a 5 percent pay reduction.

The unions have been pushing Democrats in the Legislature to make the change, which strengthens their position in negotiations with the administration to cut a total $839 million from the state's payroll costs.

Lawmakers could make more language tweaks between now and Friday's budget deadline or later enact legislation that restores some or all of the authority Brown wanted.

The budget language indicates that Democrats are hoping that all the unions will negotiate payroll reductions for the coming budget year without legislative intervention. But just as the union's hand is strengthened at the bargaining table now, Brown's position is weakened. The unions, which all have current contracts, could view the watered-down bill as a reason to seek more at the table, give Brown less or refuse any pay-cut deal at all.

There's a question in this for Brown, too: How much does he want explicit authorization to enact payroll reductions if bargaining fails? Is he willing to veto a budget that fails to give him that leverage? Or is he certain that all the unions will accept a 5 percent pay reduction even if there's no imposed furlough threat backing him up?

Here's the pertinent language in Assembly Bill 1464 and Senate Bill 1004, which was released this morning. We've underlined the key phrase:

June 14, 2012
Column Extra: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's message to unions: 'Work it out.'


With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column highlights the tension between labor unions and Democrats over whether the Legislature will confer furlough authority on Gov. Jerry Brown. At the end of the piece, we quote Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, weighing in on union talks with the governor over pay reductions.

The brief video above captures our question about the negotiations and Steinberg's remark at the very end of a Wednesday morning Capitol press conference on the budget.

June 14, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 waiting for Jerry Brown to respond to its furlough offer

SEIU Local 1000 has submitted a pay- and cost-reduction proposal to the Brown administration that includes flexible furloughs, but as of this morning has not received a response.

"Local 1000 has proposed that any reduction in pay would be in exchange for time off," the union said in an online statement. "Our proposal would maximize flexibility in how members take their time off."

The union also wants the administration to create a task force "with real authority to cut private contracting," and reduce the ranks of state retired annuitants and student assistants.

June 13, 2012
From the notebook: Read the 'lost' passages from California retired annuitants story

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Today's story about the costs and politics of how the state uses retired annuitants in today's Bee is the product of two days of number-crunching and interviews, most of which didn't see print.

That's often the case when reporting complex stories. Reporters and editors sift through what's known and written, making dozens of decisions about what to leave in and what to take out.

We made a decision to take out the following paragraphs from today's piece, concluding that they were probably number-heavy details that general readers either wouldn't easily follow or care about.

State Worker blog users, however, tend to be more knowledgeable about the fine details of state government and the bureaucracy. So rather deleting these paragraphs forever, we thought they would make for good blog item:

... Some agencies relied relatively little on retirees. The California Department of Transportation, the Highway Patrol and the State Compensation Insurance Fund spent less than 0.1 percent of total payroll last year on retired annuitants.

Others relied more on them. The departments of Mental Health, Water Resources and Social Services all spent at least 1.4 percent of their payroll on retired annuitants - twice the statewide average.

Among moderately-sized agencies, Department of Community Services and Development spent about 12 percent of its payroll on 42 retired annuitants in calendar 2011, 17 times the state average and the highest rate of any department.

Spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola attributed that to heavy workloads triggered by federal monitoring standards for how the department is spending $275 million in Recovery Act money received a few years ago.

"Given the increased federal requirements, CSD needed temporary support to meet the temporary workload," Arrezola said.

Before that, the department employed just 13 retirees and currently has 27, about one-third the number of its regular state-employee staff.

"Our Recovery Act program will wrap up in December," Arrezola said. "We'll reduce the department's temporary support accordingly."

RELATED POST:
Audit: State could lose $93 million in Recovery Act money

June 13, 2012
Poll: Are retired annuitants a blessing or a curse for the state?

Our story in today's Bee looks at Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate all but the most essential retired annuitants from the state workforce. An analysis of state payroll figures showed that about 5,800 state retirees last year drew both a pension and a paycheck at an overall cost to departments of about $110 million.

If you haven't read the story, check it out and then weigh in via our poll:


June 12, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 pushes for trade: furloughs for tougher outsourcing rules

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGSEIU Local 1000 negotiators resumed bargaining with Gov. Jerry Brown's administration this morning, and are seeking cuts in outsourcing and ending the use of retired annuitants and student employees as conditions to accept a pay reduction.

The union said in a memo to members on its website that negotiators also want "maximum flexibility" for employees to take unpaid time off to meet Brown's goal to cut workers' hours and pay by 5 percent. The governor has suggested achieving the savings by putting state workers into a four-day workweek schedule of 9.5 hours per day, but is open to alternatives.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / 2010 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua

June 11, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker holds online meeting on bargaining, Jerry Brown's furlough

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Yvonne_Walker_small.jpgSEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker held an online town hall meeting on Saturday to discuss negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown's administration over his proposal to cut employees' hours and pay by roughly 5 percent per month.

Formal talks started that day and continued Sunday. There's been no word on the status of the discussions or any agreement between the state's largest public employee's union and the administration.

In the following video, Walker says the union first proposed a four-day, 10-hours-per-day workweek, but that Brown's May budget revision give it a "twist": four 9.5-hour days.

Still, Walker gives Brown credit for including organized labor in his budget plans, for explaining to the unions why he wants $839 million in employee compensation cuts ($401 million from general fund wages) and for negotiating with the unions.

"I'm going to be honest with you. The 5 percent cut, that's real," Walker said, "But what's not real is how you get there. I think the bargaining teams have been spending a lot of time over this past week trying to get to that dollar amount in different ways."

June 8, 2012
Unions meeting with Brown administration on 5 percent cut

Look for a series of announcements in the next few days from Gov. Jerry Brown and several bargaining units that they have reached agreements to reduce employees' compensation.

Brown proposed putting most state workers on 9.5-hour shifts four days per week and closing departments on either Fridays or Mondays. Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Marty Morgenstern has said that the administration wants the workweek furlough or equivalent cuts of 5 percent negotiated in time for scoring in the budget, which lawmakers must pass by June 15.

That doesn't leave much time.

SEIU Local 1000 is meeting with the administration Saturday. California Association of Psychiatric Technicians is meeting Tuesday. We've heard -- but haven't confirmed -- that other unions have already met with the administration and that deals with those groups will soon be announced.

June 8, 2012
State employees suggest alternatives to Jerry Brown's four-day-workweek furlough plan

The Association of California State Supervisors is running a poll on its website to gauge the popularity of various alternatives to Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day workweek proposal.

The Brown administration has said it will consider alternatives that accomplish the 5 percent cut in employee compensation costs the governor wants in the 2012-13 state budget, so ACSS asked its members for ideas and then used them for the online poll. The options include:

• Reinstituting the Personal Leave Program.
• Going to a one-day-per-month furlough.
• A five-day workweek with 7.5-hour shifts.
• Closing offices at 3 p.m. on Fridays.
• A 5 percent pay cut, working hours not impacted. (0.8 percent picked that option)
• Letting departments design their own savings plans.

June 7, 2012
California state workers ask: Will minimum wage issue return?

Thumbnail image for 100830 checkbook2.gifSeveral jittery state workers have called and emailed in the last week asking whether their pay might be withheld if lawmakers don't reach a budget deal by the June 30 fiscal year-end.

The short answer: No.

But you can understand why some folks might be nervous. Former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twice tried to apply a 2003 Supreme Court decision that says without a budget appropriation for salaries by July 1, the state shouldn't pay employees more than the federal minimum wage. Once a budget is in place, the state would issue back pay.

Schwarzenegger tried to use the minimum wage threat to pressure majority Democrats into budget concessions. Then the state's chief paycheck writer, Democratic State Controller John Chiang, refused to comply. Litigation ensued. The state never withheld the money.

Three factors are in play now that didn't exist when Schwarzenegger was in office.

First, the Legislature is highly motivated to pass a budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline, even if the numbers are a sham. If they don't, 2-year-old Proposition 25 kicks in, docking their pay until a budget (which would include a state worker salary appropriation) is approved.

Second, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown wouldn't hold state workers' pay hostage. The proof? One month after taking office, Brown dropped the Schwarzenegger lawsuit to force Chiang's compliance.

Additional note: Many employee contracts, including SEIU 1000's guarantee no minimum wage for their duration.

June 4, 2012
Jerry Brown administration defines 'very top' California state workers due for bigger pay cut

120514 Jerry Brown budget presser Amezcua.jpgThe Association of California State Supervisors is reporting on its blog that Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has narrowed down which state workers' pay will be cut by more than 5 percent in the 2012-13 fiscal year:

Acting DPA Director Julie Chapman confirmed in a meeting today with your ACSS that potential cuts above 5% would target "agency secretaries and higher officials," not state supervisors, managers, and confidential employees.

In his May budget revision, the governor proposed furloughing workers two hours per week and reducing the state workweek to four days to cut employee hours and pay by 5 percent. He wants to bargain the cuts and is open to other ideas to achieve the savings as part of closing the state's $15.7 billion budget gap (and that's a charitable administration estimate).

The supervisors' association report answers one of the questions raised when Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Marty Morgenstern told reporters last month, "No one will excluded (from a pay reduction), except people at the very top. We'll have to do a little better than that."

Morgenstern didn't define who at the "very top" would be hit with a heavier pay cut. That sparked speculation in some quarters that excluded workers might get dinged more. Apparently, that's not the case.

Next question: How much is "a little better than that"?

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised state budget plan during a Capitol news conference on Monday, May 14, 2012. / Associated Press, Rich Pedroncelli

June 4, 2012
From the notebook: More about the union challenge to Corrections' legal services contract

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's fiber/cyber editions of The Bee includes a reference to a request for the State Personnel Board to review a $5 million legal services contract between a private law firm and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment filed the request and the board overturned the contract, albeit so late that the law firm will continue its work until the agreement expires on June 30.

Here's the paper trail:

CASE's Feb. 14 request that the State Personnel Board review the contract
CDCR's Mar. 23 response to the request for contract review
CASE's Mar. 30 reply to CDCR's response
The State Personnel Board's decision to disapprove the contract

May 31, 2012
Breaking news: California state officials' pay will be cut

111111 axe.jpgFrom our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Pay for California Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and all statewide officeholders will be cut by 5 percent from current levels, the state's independent salary-setting commission decided today.

Read more by clicking here.

May 30, 2012
Legislature, other elected officials may get pay cut

From our sister blog, Capitol Alert, this story from reporter Jim Sanders:

It's official: The proposal is in writing and set for a vote -- a 5 percent pay cut for Gov. Jerry Brown, all California legislators and state constitutional officers from controller to treasurer to Board of Equalization member.

Click here to read more.

May 24, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 to start pay cut talks with Jerry Brown

In a letter to members this afternoon, SEIU Local 1000 officials said that they are preparing to negotiate with Gov. Jerry Brown's administration early next month, spurred by his proposal to put state workers on a 4/9.5 workweek that would cut their hours and pay by 5 percent.

The chairs of Local 1000's nine bargaining units said that whatever concessions they negotiate will be put in a "side letter" agreement. That would avoid reopening the local's contracts.

Ahead of that, union officials are soliciting savings ideas to offer as alternatives to Brown's furloughs. Next week the local will conduct an online survey of members.

The union's bargaining team will review all of that information ahead of negotiations scheduled to start June 9. Whatever agreement is reached at the table will go to the rank and file for a ratification vote.

Here's the union's rationale for bargaining cuts:

"As the elected leaders of all nine bargaining units within Local 1000, we agreed that it's better to be aggressive participants in the effort to find solutions to achieve savings. We intend to be part of the action, not acted upon.

"We could have said 'no,' and demanded that the governor honor our contract. By staying engaged, we minimize the potential for a huge number of layoffs and even deeper cuts in vital services, like education and the programs that serve California's most needy."

Here's the entire letter:

May 22, 2012
CalPERS to host three retirement planning fairs this summer

CalPERS announced today that it will host retirement planning events in Sacramento, Anaheim and Santa Clara this summer.

Representatives from CalPERS, the Social Security Administration, the state's Savings Plus Program, ScholarShare college savings program and several employee and retiree organizations will be on hand. The events also include workshops on health and retirement benefits, service credit, Social Security and other pertinent topics.

CalPERS members can register via "My Education" area of the my|CalPERS member website at my.calpers.ca.gov.

120522 PiggyBANK.jpgHere are the dates, times and locations:

Sacramento
Aug. 10 - 11
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sacramento Convention Center
1400 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95817

Anaheim
Aug. 17 - 18
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sheraton Park Hotel
1855 South Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Santa Clara
Aug. 30 (one day only)
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Santa Clara Marriott
2700 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054

PHOTO: Big Stock Photo / Sacramento Bee file

May 22, 2012
Commission could cut state elected officials' pay

From Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders' report this morning:

One week after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed slicing state workers' pay by 5 percent, the Democratic governor and legislators find themselves targeted for a "share the pain" salary cut.

Members of California's Citizens Compensation Commission said Monday that a pay-cut proposal for statewide officeholders will be on the table when the panel meets May 31.

Click here to read the entire story, which includes lawmakers' reactions to the idea.

May 17, 2012
Jerry Brown's furlough plan would drain Sacramento economy

The Bee's state pay database guru Phillip Reese has run the numbers on what Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day, 9.5-hours-per-day workweek would do to the Sacramento region's economy.

The annual impact: $230 million in wages taken out of circulation.

Click here to read the entire story.

May 17, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 district president opposes workweek proposal

Here's an open letter that job steward and SEIU Local 1000 DLC President Thomas Lee Perine sent Wednesday to the members he represents. We're posting it here unedited and with his permission:

Dear DLC 790 Executive Board Members, Job Stewards and Activists -

Tonight is the Local 1000 Council monthly conference call. I will be on the call.

I intend to voice opposition to the forced pay cut and work hour proposals that have been floated in the media recently. President Walker was quoted as saying that a majority of our members would support this proposal. Based on the feedback I've been receiving from the members we represent, a majority of members do not support this idea.

What I would like to see is an expansion of the current voluntary personal leave program. Currently our members can opt-in to one day (8 hours) of personnel leave with a resulting ~5% reduction in pay and no effect on retirement. I have been participating in the program since it was first offered years ago.

My proposal would be that our members would be offered the option to purchase up to two additional days per month (up to 16 hours) with no option for the State to deny the leave purchase if a member chooses to opt-in and no change to retirement for those who participate. The "no denial" clause is important because otherwise many agencies will deny requests based on "operational need" and there will be no opportunity for cost savings.

This proposal will protect our members who cannot afford any more pay sacrifices and those who do not have an option to change their work hours because of family or other personal obligations or desires.

Your thoughts are important to me. What do you think? What are you hearing from our members?

Please note that I have shared this email message with the rest of our union leadership.

I am confident that we can all work together to find a solution that does not put additional undo hardships on state employees while we yet again do our part to help the State during these days of unprecedented budget crises due to the failures of Wall Street and unchecked corporate greed.

In solidarity,
Thomas Lee Perine, Job Steward &
President DLC 790 SEIU Local 1000
Department of Child Support Services

May 16, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: SEIU appreciates consultation on furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, met with reporters today and talked about Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to furlough state workers two hours per week.

Brown's plan also lengthens the state workday to 9.5 hours and shortens the workweek to four days. The changes would reduce employees' hours and pay by 5 percent and save the general fund some $401 million ($839 million all funds).

On cooperation between the unions and the governor to come up with a plan:

Just look at the experience in the Schwarzenegger years. ... When they tried to do it unilaterally, what was the end result? Lawsuits, a lot of uncertainty. The better and best way to accomplish the needed savings is to work with the people affected, and that's already going on."

On SEIU Local 1000's position:

"It would be one thing if SEIU Local 1000 was saying hell no and fighting the governor, but they're not doing that. They're actually appreciating the fact that the administration has reached out to them and that they are being brought in."

On the impact to his district and his assessment of the governor's moves:

"It's certainly hard on a lot of my constituents, The process by which the administration is trying to get to that goal, the money goal, I think has been very constructive so far."

On how the issue will play for the November election:

"You want to go into November with as much solidarity as possible."

PHOTO: Darrell Steinberg / 2011 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua

May 16, 2012
Poll: Should unionized California state workers get a vote on Jerry Brown's furlough plan?

As our story in today's Bee notes, it's not clear whether rank-and-file state workers will be able to vote on any scheduling changes or other concessions that their representatives bargain to reach the payroll savings target in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal.

Brown wants unions to take a 5-percent pay reduction with a commensurate cut in work hours each month to trim $401 million from the general fund's employee costs and $839 million from all funds in fiscal 2012-13. The governor's plan includes putting most employees on a 4-day, 9.5 hours-per-day workweek.

State law doesn't require a membership vote if a union reaches a side agreement with Brown. The associations' various bylaws, practices and processes determine whether they would issue ballots. Some union leaders also could seek guidance by surveying their members without a formal vote.

May 15, 2012
From the notebook: More reactions to Jerry Brown's California workweek plan

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 story in today's Bee looks at Gov. Jerry Brown's prosposal to cut $401 million in general fund employee costs ($839 million all funds) by putting state employees on a 4/9.5 weekly furlough schedule.

We inerviewed several folks who didn't get into the final version of our story, including Bruce Blanning, executive director of the state's engineers' union and Tim Yeung, a Sacramento-based labor attorney.

Here are some highlights of our discussions with both men:

May 14, 2012
Poll: What do you think of Jerry Brown's four-day workweek idea?

Gov. Jerry Brown is suggesting state workers go to a four-day, 9.5 hours-per-day workweek to cut about $839.1 million in costs for fiscal 2012-13. What do you think of the idea?


May 14, 2012
Jerry Brown says workweek changes will be bargained

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that his administration will bargain with labor to get the 5 percent, $839.1 million savings from employee compensation costs that his May budget revision proposes.

Here's what the governor said during this morning's press conference when asked how he would hit the savings target:

"Negotiations. We have contracts and we'll look at a variety of ways (to make savings). The state employees particularly have come forward some very imaginative ideas. They've been helpful. They've been willing to step up to the plate even though they represent some people who are not paid all that much. So we will work for a 5 percent cut. And we're going to figure it out. But that will be the financial value of the changes we make and it will be mutually arrived at."

May 10, 2012
Union president says she told Jerry Brown: 'furloughs are off the table'

Thumbnail image for 120508 Yvonne Walker 2008 brian baer.JPGIn a memo to members today, SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said that she was consulted about Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to cut state employees' pay and that she drew a line at imposing unpaid time off on workers.

"First let me say that I have made it clear that furloughs are not on the table," Walker wrote.

She said that she has had several meetings with the administration and is continuing talks.

"Under the previous governor, our input was not sought, in fact, it was dismissed. Under Gov. Brown, we have a seat at the table," Walker's memo said. "We have offered our own proposals to deal with this crisis."

Among the suggestions: cutting private vendor contracts, eliminating the use of retired annuitants and, "if necessary, implementing a four-day, 40-hour work week."

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee 2008, Brian Baer

May 10, 2012
Poll: Will California state workers' pay be cut?

Our story in today's Bee fleshes out Wednesday's news that Gov. Jerry Brown has told labor leaders that his May budget revision on Monday will include a cut to state workers' compensation. He's asked the unions to help figure out how to get the savings.

If you haven't read the story already, check it out and then participate in our poll:

May 9, 2012
Jerry Brown tells unions to brace for California state worker pay cuts

State workers' compensation is back on the budget chopping block.

Brown administration officials met with the state employee union leaders last week, according to sources familiar with the meetings, to warn them that the next version of the governor's budget will include an unspecified cut in employee costs up to 10 percent.

The administration in January estimated that California is confronting a $9.2 billion deficit through 2012-13, but a recent state analysis concluded the actual gap is considerably more.

The sources, who declined to talk on the record because the administration asked all involved to keep the discussions secret, said Brown told the unions he was seeking $750 million in state employee cost savings for fiscal 2012-13.

The sources said the Brown administration asked union leaders to come up with ways to make the reduction -- pay cuts or higher benefit contributions, for instance.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said, "The governor has already indicated that more difficult reductions will be required," because the state's budget deficit has grown since Brown issued his first budget proposal in January.

"The details of those reductions will be detailed in the May Revision," Palmer said.

The governor could order wholesale layoffs, but the civil service process usually takes at least six months and the savings often fall short of expectations.

Furloughs are an option only if the Senate and Assembly authorize Brown to execute them, because the courts have ruled the policy falls under the Legislature's authority to set wages and working conditions. That seems unlikely, given the Democratic majority in the statehouse.

Other cost savings such as outright pay cuts, higher employee contributions to pension or health benefits, would need to be bargained.

Last month Brown recently extended the contracts of four unions with deals set to expire in July. Two of the extensions covering about a total 16,000 psychiatric technicians and operating engineers increased the state's health benefits costs 9.5 percent for those workers.

With the four extensions in place, the contracts covering roughly all 180,000 unionized state workers expire in July 2013.

Brown is set to deliver the budget revision on Monday.

May 3, 2012
California Senate OKs state management pay analysis bill

The Senate this morning approved a measure that mandates the state report the costs of pay raises for supervisors and managers when analyzing union labor contracts.

Much of the time, managers and supervisors get similar employment terms to those negotiated for the employees they supervise. For example, if SEIU Local 1000 negotiates a 2 percent pay raise for its members, the related managers get the same.

But not always. The Department of Personnel Administration (and soon the new California Department of Human Resources) negotiates labor pacts and also sets the pay for excluded employees. By law, it must issue a fiscal analysis of what the negotiated contracts cost, but the department isn't required to do the same for related management compensation.

Senate Bill 1113 would mandate CalHR include analyses of the financial obligation for related excluded employees. The California Correctional Supervisors Organization, which is sponsoring the bill, says the measure would make employee costs more transparent.

Early versions of the bill also required the state to "address salary compaction and parity concerns for excluded employees," but that language was struck from the legislation the Senate OK'd today on a bipartisan 36-0 vote.

SB 1113, authored by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, now goes to the Assembly.

April 24, 2012
Analyst says some state worker contracts 'modestly' increase costs

The Legislative Analyst's Office figures that four union contracts that Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to extend for one year will "maintain or modestly increase the state's costs for employee compensation."

The nonpartisan LAO looked at so-called "rollover agreements" with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Bargaining Unit 16) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Unit 19) and concluded that they don't cost the state more than the deals that expire in July.

The state's cost for employees covered by the International Union of Operating Engineers (Unit 12) and the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (Unit 18), however, will grow by an estimated 9.5 percent due to increased health benefit costs. Those contracts have clauses requiring the state to cover increases in health coverage.

The contracts together cover roughly 24,000 state workers, including equipment operators, social service professionals, psychiatric technicians and doctors.

MOU Fiscal Analysis: Bargaining Units 12, 16, 18, and 19

April 18, 2012
Salary cap measure clears California Senate committee

120418 Senator Anderson Senate Floor Photo.JPGA bill that would cap California state employees' pay at no more than what the governor earns cleared the Senate Public Employee and Retirement Committee today on a 3-1 vote.

Senate Bill 1368, authored by Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, would limit the annual pay of state officers and employees, including overtime, to the governor's salary, currently $173,987 per year.

The measure exempts current salaries set by contracts but requires the limitations to take effect for those employees once those deals expire. Anderson's bill also includes exemptions for public safety workers and judges.

Republican Sens. Ted Gaines of Rocklin and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel and Democratic Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego voted for the measure. Sen. Alex Padilla D-Los Angeles, opposed it. Chino Democratic Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod abstained.

The measure now moves to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee for a hearing Tuesday.

CalSTRS, which has sponsored a bill that would allow it to boost pay for its chief financial officer and chief operating officer well beyond what the governor earns, has opposed the measure.

Related posts:
Anderson bill would cap state worker pay at Jerry Brown's salary
The State Worker: Linking state pay cap to governor is tricky exercise
Column Extra: Who earns more than Jerry Brown?
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

PHOTO: Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, on the Senate floor in 2011. / Courtesy Joel Anderson.

April 18, 2012
Bill allows big pay hike for two CalSTRS executive jobs

A bill scheduled for a committee hearing today would cap the compensation for two jobs at the California State Teachers' Retirement System at 150 percent of what the governor earns, but the new ceiling is twice what the positions currently earn.

Assembly Bill 1735, which is sponsored by CalSTRS, is in front of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The measure expands the list of jobs for which the fund's board can set compensation to include chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The fund says it needs the flexibility to compete for candidates outside of government. The bill caps what CalSTRS board could pay at one-and-a-half times the govenor's salary, currently about $174,000 per year.

"Given the new ceiling of $260,000 per annum, this bill allows CalSTRS to double existing salaries," an Appropriations staff analysis says. "The actual costs will depend on the compensation packages developed by the Teachers' Retirement Board."

CalSTRS says that paying more to get the most-skilled executives will save big bucks because it will be able to hire and hold better-qualified managers who make key business decisions.

The fund has said that it needs an infusion of money to meet its long-term pension obligations. In February, it reported assets of $152 billion, sustaining its pension fund for 856,000 public school teachers and their families in California's 1,600 school districts, county education offices and community college districts.

April 17, 2012
From the notebook: The CalPERS computer system report

We 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.

The CalPERS computer system story in today's Bee draws from an item on the agenda of the fund's Pension and Health Benefits Committee, which is meeting this morning.

Here's the report on the system. Click here to watch the committee session live online, starting at 9 a.m. or after the Finance and Administration Committee ends its hearing, whichever is later.
CalPERS Workload Inventory

April 9, 2012
Read the California state worker unions' contract extension letters

As we reported earlier today, four unions representing roughly 24,000 state workers have reached agreements with Gov. Jerry Brown to extend the terms of their current contracts, which are due to expire in a few months.

The agreements cover state employees in bargaining units 12 (skilled crafts workers), 16 (doctors and dentists), 18 (psychiatric technicians) and 19 (health and social services professionals).

Open a larger view of the contract extension letters embedded below by clicking the "full screen" button at the bottom of the document display.

Contract extentions for bargaining units 12, 16, 18 and 19

April 6, 2012
Pension and public employee bills set for hearing Monday

120406 State Capitol Building 1996 Sac Bee Rob Ferris.JPGThe Senate Public Employment & Retirement Committee is scheduled to hear several bills Monday, including three measures of interest to state employees:

SB 955 (Fran Pavley): Authorizes pension boards to give investment priority to in-state infrastructure projects over out-of-state infrastructure projects.

SB 1234 (Kevin de León): Establishes a guaranteed retirement savings system for private-sector workers. (Click here for a recent report on the measure.)

SB 1368 (Joel Anderson): Caps state employee pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000. (Click here for a recent State Worker column about the measure.)

The committee hearing is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. in the Capitol's Room 2040.

PHOTO CREDIT: California State Capitol / Sacramento Bee file, Rob Ferris

April 3, 2012
Are American state workers scourges or scapegoats?

Are state workers dragging down state budgets around the nation? Or have public employees and their compensation packages become convenient political scapegoats?

A year ago the PBS news show "Need to Know" took on what it calls "one of the most contentious arguments in the news today." We ran across the report this morning while surveying state worker news. Although the item ran on March 11, 2011, the topic remains relevant today.

Watch Union Salaries and State Budgets on PBS. See more from Need to Know.

March 30, 2012
Poll: How much does money matter?

A reader called on Thursday to strongly disagree with this week's State Worker column, which looked at a bill that would cap state pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000 per year.

The column suggested that the cap idea doesn't acknowledge key differences between what motivates people to aspire to the executive and what motivates them to become, say, a state university president, CalPERS investment manager or a nuclear physicist.

The caller contended that the state doesn't need to compete for talented individuals to run departments, conduct nuclear research, manage investments or to perform other high-level, high-skill jobs. Public service and love of the work, he said, is a reward in itself. Plenty of competent folks would line up for jobs that he said currently overpay incumbents.

And anyone who passed on a job because they wanted more money? "The state doesn't need them," the caller said.

What do you think? How much should money matter to public servants? Do some care about it less than others? Take our poll and leave your comments:


March 29, 2012
Republicans propose state worker pay cut to help budget

This from The Bee's Kevin Yamamura on our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Legislative Republicans rolled out a budget plan Thursday that relies on cutting state worker pay, eliminating affordable housing funds and using pots of money dedicated for mental health and childhood development.

Republicans believe their plan eliminates the state's $9.2 billion deficit without new taxes and preserves the same amount of funding for education that existed last year. They say it undercuts Gov. Jerry Brown's argument that voters must pass higher taxes in November to spare schools from deep reductions.

Read the rest of his report by clicking here.

March 29, 2012
Column Extra: Who earns more than Jerry Brown?

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee filters the debate over state workers' wages through Senate Bill 1368, which would cap state pay -- including overtime -- at what the governor earns, about $174,000 per year.

So we asked our state worker pay database guru, Phillip Reese, to find out how many state employees would have been affected last year if SB 1368 had been law, and what job classes dominated that pay strata. We also asked him to look at UC system employees (the latest data we have for them is for 2010) to get a sense of how many of them made more than the governor. SB 1368 wouldn't affect them, though, because the UC system is constitutionally protected, but the bill encourages its leaders to conform to the cap.

Here's Phillip's email answering my questions:

About 2,015 civil service, CSU and legislative workers earned base pay over $174,000 in 2011, state controller's data show. Another 2,560 UC employees earned that much in 2010, according to the most recent data available from the UC system. So about 4,500 total -- a number that almost doubles if you look at total pay, which includes overtime, bonuses, etc. (I know Anderson, in his bill, cited "more than 8,000 workers," which is in line with my numbers if looking at total pay, instead of just base pay.)

By far, the largest job class in this group is physicians, mostly working at UC hospitals, state prisons and state mental health facilities. About 2,100 of the 4,500 are doctors, dentists or psychiatrists. Running far behind, but with more than 200 employees making that much, are judges, senior professors and top administrators at myriad agencies.

RELATED POSTS:
Anderson bill would cap state worker pay at Jerry Brown's salary
Steinberg: state worker pay cap bill 'worth considering'

March 26, 2012
Report says unions have big money advantage in politics

Here's one side of the argument you'll be hearing for the next seven months over the so-called "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act" the political-committee funding measure on the Nov. 7 ballot in California.

"DUES AND DEEP POCKETS: Public-Sector Unions' Money Machine," published by the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, argues that dues withheld by payroll deduction and paid directly to unions, along with rules that force employees to pay for representation even if they aren't members, gives labor "an abundant and reliable source of money, sparing unions the need to spend resources on recruitment, retention, and fund-raising."

Author Daniel DiSalvo says that means civil service unions have a serious advantage over other groups throwing elbows for government resources.

The Stop Special Interest Money Now Act would, among other things, prohibit use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes by unions, corporations or government contractors. Employees could still contribute to employer or union committees, but they'd have to do it annually and in writing. (Click here to read the measure.)

California unions' will take a big revenue hit if voters approve the as-yet-to-be-numbered proposition, since labor relies on members' payroll deductions to raise money for political spending. Business interests don't.
DUES AND DEEP POCKETS: Public-Sector Unions' Money Machine

March 26, 2012
Should California cap state pay at what the governor earns?

As reported last week, Senate Bill 1368 by Republican Sen. Joel Anderson, would set the top salary for state workers and officers at the $173,987 earned by the governor.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has said the pay cap measure is "worth considering."

What do you think?


March 15, 2012
Poll: Weigh in on Ward v. California Department of Corrections

We've heard some strong sentiments from phone callers and email correspondents today about the James Ward case covered in today's State Worker column and companion blog post.

By that (extremely unscientific) measure, opinions are split 50-50.

If you haven't yet, check out the reporting and documentation about the prison chief dentist's fight to get his job back, then take our (extremely unscientific) poll:

March 13, 2012
Poll: CalPERS committee votes to lower investment assumption

From The Bee's Dale Kasler:

CalPERS today moved toward reducing its investment forecast by a quarter percentage point, a move that would cost the state's general fund $167 million a year.

Click here to read more.

The recommendation goes to a vote of the full board on Wednesday.


March 10, 2012
CalPERS 'air time' cost could jump soon for state workers

Next week, CalPERS Board of Administration will consider lowering its investment return expectations from the current 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent.

If that happens, pension costs would increase for state and local governments -- and employees would have to pay significantly more for air time after Mar. 15.

CalPERS Pension and Health Benefits Committee will take up the issue on Tuesday. If it accepts Chief Actuary Alan Milligan's recommendation, "The cost for service credit purchases under the present value method is expected to increase between 5 percent and 13 percent when looking at the most common ages at which members currently buy service. Note that the actual increase for some members would be more."

CalPERS members who buy air time before the deadline will get the benefit of the higher rate of return assumption. So will members with a request for an official air time cost estimate submitted to the fund before Friday.

Members have 60 days to purchase air time after receiving a price quote from CalPERS.

"No one (with cost esitimates in the queue) needs to worry," CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco told us Friday afternoon. "Those (prices) will be honored."

The benefit costs thousands of dollars. If you're thinking about buying air time, we recommend you start with CalPERS' online service credit calculator before contacting the fund for an official estimate. Click here for more details about how to get a quick ballpark idea of what air time would cost you.

We've embedded the return assumption rate item below. Scroll down to "Impact on Member Calculations," for the discussion of service credit costs.

March 9, 2012
AFSCME proposes extending state worker contract for one year

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2620 has proposed extending its expiring labor agreement for one year.

Cliff Leo Tillman Jr., Local 2620's senior business agent, made the initial proposal to Gov. Jerry Brown's administration in a letter (posted below) presented at yesterday's public "sunshine" meeting at the Department of Personnel Administration. State law requires the meetings to publicly air initial labor proposals and allow public comment on them.

AFSCME represents about 4,600 health and social service professionals in Bargaining Unit 19. Its contract expires July 2. State doctors, psychiatric technicians and skilled crafts employees and maintenance staff in three other bargaining units are working under contracts with the same expiration date. None have yet offered a formal initial proposal.

AFSCME's proposal clearly signals the union isn't going to press for pay raises or other big gains while Brown is trying to close a $9.2 billion state budget gap, but detailed talks will still occur behind closed doors later when state and labor negotiators meet.

It's no surprise that AFSCME has proposed extending its current deal. Click here for a recent State Worker column that explains why.
AFSCME contract rollover proposal

March 6, 2012
When will California pay furlough back wages to state workers?

The State Worker has received several emails from staff in the five agencies that are paying furlough back wages, all asking the same thing: When will they get their money?

Current and former employees of the Prison Industry Authority, the First 5 California Commission, the California Housing Finance Agency, the California Earthquake Authority and the California State Lottery who lost pay to furloughs are due to get the withheld money. They will not receive interest on the back pay. The payouts won't affect the state's general fund, since it doesn't furnish money to those five agencies.

The State Controller's Office has to cut the checks, so we asked SCO spokesman Jacob Roper when that would happen.

"We are working with other departments to get all the necessary information, and we should have a time frame this week," Roper said in an email this afternoon.

February 28, 2012
State Compensation Insurance Fund OKs staff bonus program

Despite an unprecedented downsizing that has cut jobs and emptied out agency offices around California, the State Compensation Insurance Fund's board of directors has OK'd a new incentive bonus program for employees.

It's not clear how much this will cost State Fund, a quasi-private state agency that provides workers' compensation insurance to businesses, but employees could receive up to 10 percent of their base pay depending on how well they perform. None of the bonus money would come from tax dollars, since State Fund operates solely on policyholders' premiums and investments.

The board approved the Performance Award Program on Feb. 17, about seven weeks after 971 employees in danger of layoffs took an unprecedented severance package that paid them to leave by the end of last year and give up their preferential rights to other state government jobs. The so-called "transition packages" cost State Fund about $30 million.

Even after those employees left, another 700 fund jobs remained on the chopping block as part of a multiyear plan to save $200 million by axing outdated jobs, shuttering offices and consolidating operations.

We asked fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen how the new employee bonus program lined up with the agency's push to cut costs. She responded by forwarding an email to staff that explains the program as "an appropriate investment in strengthening and accelerating our transition to a performance-based culture." (Click here to read the entire email.)

The bonuses are contingent on negotiations with union representatives, according to the State Fund staff memo. Here's the board's agenda item concerning the new bonus program:
State Compensation Insurance Fund bonus item on BOD's Feb. 17 agenda

February 24, 2012
John Chiang: California needs to pay down retiree health costs

Controller John Chiang today urged the state to scrape up at least a little extra cash to pay down state retiree health and dental benefit costs, which his latest commissioned report pegs at $62.1 billion over 30 years.

The figure, a snapshot of the unfunded health obligations on June 30,2011, represents a 5 percent increase over $59.9 billion identified a year earlier. Actuaries with Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. had expected an even higher number, but CalPERS' push to trim health costs through a variety of programs, fewer and less expensive claims and lower-than-anticipated use of services have trimmed expenses.

For the most part, the state is covering those costs year to year, paying retiree health bills as they come up. A more prudent course, Chiang said, is to treat the long-term benefit expenses like the state treats pensions: set aside money now, invest it and then use the returns on investments to defray future retiree medical and dental costs.

"Even slight amounts set aside will help lessen the impact on future generations, and ensure that we fulfill our responsibilities to the state workforce and our taxpayers," Chiang said in a press release.

February 24, 2012
The Bee's state worker pay database now upgraded and faster

120224 Steinberg pay.JPG

The Bee's state worker pay database has been upgraded with features that give the information more context and provide it more quickly.

The data now include state employee wage histories from calendar 2007 through the end of last year. Clicking on an individual's name pulls up their historical wages graphically in the context of the average pay in their department. Scrolling over the data points in the graph reveals specific info.

The information on the site shows up more quickly than before because The Bee's web developers streamlined its layout and used a Google product that loads faster.

The screen capture above shows the wage history of one elected state worker in the Legislature. Click here to open the pay database page.

February 16, 2012
New analysis suggests public pension changes; reform spokesman looks ahead

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGA new analysis of the public pension issue suggests that government should move from pensions that increase based on service time to plans that motivate performance with higher pay that then boosts retirement payouts.

"Solving the Public Pension Plan Dilemma," is written by Dan Van Bogaert, a adjunct professor who teaches human resource management courses at UCLA and Brandman University. His analysis appears in the latest volume of the Journal of Pension Benefits.

Bogaert makes several suggestions, from switching to 401(k)-style defined contribution plans and raising the retirement age for full benefits to mandatory pension funding ratios and restricting union bargaining to wages.

He also wants pension formulas that use a "replacement ratio" method that guarantees employees a certain percentage of their working pay when they retire, along with "pay-for-performance" compensation policies that would reward workers for work well done, not merely their years of service.

"The objective is to offer pay and incentivized rewards for performance, rather than offer entitlements connected to tenure. DB plan formulae based primarily on years of service would be de-emphasized, and replaced by incentives tied to pay, as a means to grow pension benefits," Bogaert writes.

(On a related note, Aaron McLear, who often spoke on behalf of California Pension Reform during its now-suspended campaign to qualify a state and local government pension initiative for the November ballot, last week answered the question, "What's next for pension reform?" Click this link to read his thoughts on CBS 13's website.)
Solving the Public Pension Plan Dilemma
IMAGE: www.photobucket.com

February 16, 2012
California Earthquake Authority will pay furlough back wages

The state's quasi-private earthquake insurer is planning to pay furlough back wages to current and former agency employees who lost salary to the policy.

California Earthquake Authority spokeswoman D'Anne Ousley left a voice mail message with The State Worker Wednesday evening, confirming our earlier speculation that the agency would expand furlough lawsuit settlement terms reached with SEIU Local 1000 and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment to non-represented staff.

The state's four other "off-budget" agencies that settled furloughs with the unions -- the Prison Industry Authority, the First 5 California Commission, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California State Lottery -- announced similar decisions earlier this week.

The repayment plans exclude members of Professional Engineers in California Government and California Association of Professional Scientists because those two associations are pressing on with furlough litigation. Local 1000 and CASE agreed to drop their remaining furlough lawsuits if their members in off-buget departments received furlough back pay.

The Earthquake Authority, a publicly-managed, privately-funded organization that provides
residential earthquake insurance, employs about 25 state civil service workers. Repaying them won't come from the state budget, since the agency operates on money taken in from investments and policyholder premiums.

February 15, 2012