The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 7, 2013
Department of Corrections: New budget climate equals better accounting

130207 Pelican Bay.JPGWith 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 Bee about the state's struggle with big-picture data, included a reference to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's trouble with producing spending reports to the Legislature.

As we noted, Corrections produced the numbers on time this year. A shift in political winds helped.

January 22, 2013
Read transcripts from the California parks budget probe, part 3

This is the third and final batch of interview transcripts from the state attorney general's investigation of the budget scandal at the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For context, read Bee reporter Matt Weiser's Monday story, which looks at whether state employees who hid the money broke any laws.

130107 natural_resources_logo.jpgYou'll find the first batch of transcripts here and the second batch here.

Along with this final set, the transcripts comprise the bulk of more than 2,000 pages of investigation documents provided by the Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the parks department.

Perez, Tony Interview 92612 Redacted.pdf
Robertson, Aaron Interview 82212.pdf
Romero, Paul Interview 92412 Redacted.pdf
Saxby, Dave Interview 82712.pdf
Slaughterback, Olaya Interview 9412.pdf
Stearns, Roy Interview 92512.pdf
Sturm, Kirk Interview 92812 Redacted.pdf
Sturm, Kirk Interview 10312.pdf
Summers, Jason Interview 92512.pdf
Taylor, Cheryl Interview 83012.pdf
Veliquette, Mary Interview 92412.pdf
Verardo, Denzel Interview 92412.pdf
Wright, Mary Interview 10312.pdf

This link opens a page dedicated to The Bee's state parks coverage.


January 10, 2013
California state workforce to remain flat, cost more in fiscal 2013-14

Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgEditors note, 3:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this story used state job estimates from the 2012-13 enacted budget summary. This post has been modified using revised job figures in Brown's 2013-14 budget proposal that indicate a smaller number of current state positions.

California state government will pay about $501 million more for its employees in the next fiscal year, according to the budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning, while the number of government positions remain essentially flat.

Brown's 2013-14 budget envisions 216,000 positions in the executive branch, the area of state government under his direct authority, at a cost of $15.7 billion. Government overall will grow slightly by adding about 6,300 positions, mostly in higher educaton.

The $97.7 billion budget plan doesn't call for extending the one-day-per-month furloughs set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Nor does it contain money for other raises for new contracts.

Brown declined to go into details about upcoming contract talks, citing his obligation to collectively bargain with the unions in good faith.

"We have to enter those negotiations with an open mind, but we have to live within our means. So I don't want to put too many of my cards on the table," Brown told reporters this morning, "Although everything's in the budget, so you can figure out sort of what the outside parameters are."

January 7, 2013
Top 10 posts of 2012: Jerry Brown plan cuts jobs, no furloughs

Thumbnail image for countdown 4.JPGThis is the latest in a series counting down this year's most-viewed State Worker blog posts, with a little hindsight analysis.

Almost exactly one year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown issued his draft 2012-13 state budget. For state employees, some of the most notable features of the plan were that it cut the state workforce by 3,000 budgeted positions and didn't envision a new round of furloughs in his cost calculations.

Of course, we all know what eventually happened with that.

Here's the Jan. 4, 2012 post that ranked fourth among the most-viewed State Worker blog items last year: Jerry Brown's budget eliminates 3,000 state jobs, axes agencies.

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.

July 26, 2012
Column Extra: Read the California Department of Finance's plan to audit Parks and Recreation

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 lays out more details of the Parks and Recreation secret leave buyout program and its connection to the discovery last week of $54 million the department had in two accounts -- even as it was planning to close 70 facilities around the state.

The Department of Finance didn't know about the money, which has been accumulating for at least 12 years, although the State Controller's Office did. Many department managers didn't know about the money either, and they worked to raise private money and build partnerships to keep facilities on the hit list open.

Imagine how the staff who beat the bushes for money and partnerships feel now.

Along with the State Controller's Office and the attorney general, Finance has launched an investigation of the Parks Department's budget, accounts and procedures. As you'll see in the outline below, its audit plan will initially unwind five years of records.

Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said Wednesday that the Parks matter in relation to the state's budgeting process is analogous to a tripped fuse discovered during a home remodeling project.

"You go back and check all the fuses," Palmer said, so the state also is taking a wider look at how departments report their budgets.

Audit Plan - Parks

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 5, 2012
Budget ends furlough protections for State Compensation Insurance Fund employees

California's state attorney's union launched its furlough agreement ratification today. While it's 3,700 or so members ponder their vote, several hundred who work at the State Compensation Insurance Fund face a new reality: They're no longer protected from furloughs.

Lawyers representing the state attorneys' union and SEIU Local 1000 employees won several court cases that turned back furloughs and restored lost pay for employees at the self-sustaining fund by relying on a state law that protects them from "staff cutbacks." Nearly 8,000 State Fund workers were wrongly furloughed, the courts said.

This time around, however, things are different.

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 20, 2012
State worker calls on SEIU Local 1000 leaders to 'force the state to honor our contract'

Thumbnail image for 120130 Yvonne Walker 2008.JPGHere's an email from state employee Paul Warrick to SEIU Local 1000 leaders regarding the 5-percent pay reduction that union and Brown administration negotiators have been discussing since June 9.

Warrick cc'd The State Worker on Tuesday when he sent the email to Local 1000. With his permission, we're publishing it here, unedited:

Dear President Walker and SEIU 1000 Board Members,

Thousands of state workers are concerned that you won't stand up for us, and force the state to honor our contract. You need only mention the furloughs of the two years preceding our current contract, our increased contribution towards our retirement, the rare Unit 1 cost of living adjustments over the last decade- plus, and the scaling back of benefits for new employees to completely justify a firm stand.

We are sick and tired of the threats of layoffs. We don't want new employees to be laid off, but those of us who have been here for the long haul are weary of layoffs being characterized as our responsibility, when it is not.

Please don't act complicity with the Governor by continuing to further sacrifice our benefits and wages for political appearances aimed at persuading the electorate to support the Governor's tax increase in November.

When the Governor begins his campaign for the tax initiative, his recitation of cuts and concessions mentioned in the first paragraph above is more than sufficient to illustrate that rank and file state employees have done their fair share in these tough economic times.

Besides, the electorate are clamoring for pension reform, not more furloughs. They won't be impressed.

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee 2008 file, Brian Baer

June 15, 2012
Correctional officers, firefighters, psych techs, Jerry Brown tentatively agree to furloughs

State firefighters, correctional officers and psychiatric technicians will take a 5 percent pay hit starting next month under agreements their unions reached Friday with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The news came at the end of a week that saw several unions engaged in intense negotiations with the administration over the wage reduction. The largest group, the 93,000-member SEIU Local 1000, had submitted a proposal to Brown but as of this afternoon had yet to finalize the deal.

The agreements with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the California Department of Forestry Firefighters and the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians all mirror a deal reached with the CHP officers' union last week. Under those terms, employees' pay is docked eight hours per month for one year, but the time can be taken later.

The deal with the firefighters marks the first time that group has been furloughed since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the policy in February 2009.

Firefighters' union spokesman Terry McHale said that members have "given and continue to give" with budget hits to department staffing and equipment the last few years.

"We understand the tenor of the times," McHale said.

Spokesman JeVaughn Baker declined to talk specifics about CCPOA's deal with Brown until the union's leadership could evaluate it.

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 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 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
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 25, 2012
California supervisors group mobilizing to fight Jerry Brown's 4/9.5 furlough plan

The Association of California State Supervisors, a member-run organization that represents excluded state workers, is girding itself to battle Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day workweek proposal.

"We need to present the Governor and the public with facts. Specifically, we need to show how the reduced workweek will impact California taxpayers," ACSS President Arlene Espinoza said in an email. "This is your chance to fight for your career and you can do it from the comfort of your own desk."

The memo then asks for "historical proof that furloughs don't work" and "educated guesses about how the 4-day workweek won't work."

Click here to read the memo.

May 18, 2012
Legislative Analyst says 4-day week for California workers 'problematic'

The Legislative Analyst's Office said today that Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to move state workers into a 4-day, 9.5-hour-per-day schedule would create some serious problems.

The criticisms conclude a lengthy analysis of Brown's state budget proposal to close what the administration estimates is a $15.7 billion budget deficit (the LAO says it's more than that). Among the issues raised with Brown's furlough plan:

• Employees won't use as much leave, which will increase the state's deferred costs.
• It will hinder interaction with government agencies that operate on regular schedules.
• It may not reduce energy costs.

Then the analyst makes this comment about cutting employee costs:

Employee compensation, including salaries and benefits, will cost the state's General Fund $10.5 billion in 2012-13. Given the severity of the state's budget shortfall, we think the Legislature will need to consider reductions in these costs. There are, however, no ideal ways to achieve such reductions.

Why? Bargaining, the analyst said, usually means some sort of trade-off that negates savings. Layoffs take a long time and can adversely affect services. Furloughs and leave programs carry deferred costs (see above). The Legislature could impose pay cuts, but that "could require the administration to negotiate with unions for new contracts under the terms of the Dills Act. Unilateral state actions of this type may produce significant state savings, but pose many concerns. Such concerns include negative effects on employee-management relations."

The report also discusses the state's job vacancies and changes that Brown is proposing to the way the state budgets for positions, including eliminating vacant positions.

Click here to open the LAO's report. Scroll down to the "Employee Compensation" section for more analysis about Brown's plan for the 4-day workweek and vacant positions.

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
Live chat replay: Assessing four-day workweek plan for state workers

Correction, 3:23 p.m.: At the 12:15 p.m. mark in the chat, the word "not" was left out of the response to a question about whether Gov. Jerry Brown's 4/9.5 furlough plan affects CSU or UC employees. The answer should have read, "UC and CSU employees are not affected."

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 17, 2012
Live chat today at noon will take on Jerry Brown's workweek plan

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chat logo.jpgWhat does Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to restructure the state workweek mean for state workers and the public?

Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Will it really happen? What about other aspects of his plan to cut costs, like reducing outsourced work and eliminating hiring of retired annuitants?

Join us here at noon today for an hour of your questions and comments during what is sure to be a lively online chat about Brown's version of furloughs. You can even sign up for an email reminder at

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
Live chat today on Jerry Brown's budget plan for California

Thumbnail image for chat logo.jpgThe Bee's Baron of the Budget, Kevin Yamamura, will host a live chat session today on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan, which includes a 38-hour state workweek.

Pose your questions, make comments and pick Kevin's brain today at noon on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

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 14, 2012
Read what Jerry Brown's budget plan says about cutting state workers' hours, pay

California Gov. Jerry Brown released today a revised plan to close the state's projected $15.7 billion budget gap.

Here are the four pages that deal with reducing state employee costs, including a plan to shorten the workweek for most state workers, government reorganization and cuts to special -fund programs and state real estate costs.

Our sister blog, Capitol Alert, has posted the entire revised budget proposal online.
California May budget revision on state government

May 14, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget proposes longer days, shorter weeks for state workers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGState employees would work longer shifts but fewer of them under the revised budget plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning, saving the government more than $800 million.

Brown's budget envisions putting a four-day, 38-hour workweek for "the majority of state employees." If broken into four equal shifts, that translates into four 9.5-hour workdays and a reduction of hours and pay of eight hours over four weeks.

Brown's plan doesn't spare prisons or state hospitals: "The Administration will pursue commensurate reductions in work hours and pay for employees of entities that operate 24 hour a day, 7 days a week when implementation of the four-day workweek is not feasible."

The plan also cuts the state's operating costs by cutting energy usage at state-occupied buildings.

In sum, the workweek reconfiguration plan would save an estimated $839.1 million in fiscal 2012-13. Of that, $401.7 million would be savings for the general fund, which Brown says is confronting a $16 billion deficit.

The budget plan also anticipates more savings through cutting outside contracts, particularly in information technology services, eliminating "non essential" hiring of retired annuitants and cutting 11,000 state positions on top of the 15,000 eliminated in the 2011-12 budget.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / Sacramento Bee file

May 14, 2012
Jerry Brown to release California state budget revision today

From our sister blog, Capitol Alert:

Just how bad will it be?

Gov. Jerry Brown is releasing his revised budget in Sacramento at 10 a.m., and with his deficit estimate now at $16 billion, nobody thinks it'll be easy on the eyes. As Kevin Yamamura reported Sunday, "No sector that relies on state funding is likely to escape deeper cuts. Brown has already told state worker unions to expect at least a 5 percent compensation reduction."

Brown's morning news conference will be streamed live on the California Channel's website. The revised budget itself will posted online shortly after 10 a.m. at this link. Afterward, the governor will head to Los Angeles for a second news conference at 2 p.m. Come back to Capitol Alert later today for details and reactions from legislators and others.

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

April 12, 2012
See what California state departments cut from 2011-12 budgets

So how much has your department cut its budget this year?

The Department of Finance table below shows how cuts for fiscal 2011-12 totaling $224 million are spread among 150 departments. The numbers reflect the savings targets set by Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze order last year. Departments had to submit budget cut plans to the administration in order to resume hiring without administrative review by the governor's office.

Cuts included things like travel, equipment purchases, employee training and outside contracting. Some departments eliminated budget money they were holding to fill vacant positions.

Finance certified each department's budget cuts and issued instructions to the Controller's Office that holds them to the lower levels of spending, Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said during an interview for our Monday report on state hiring.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabiliation remains under the hiring freeze. The department is shedding jobs as it shrinks its inmate population and shifts its parole functions to local governments.

The table divides up the 2011-12 budget cuts into four categories:

April 9, 2012
California state worker unions reach tentative labor pacts with Jerry Brown

Four unions representing a combined 24,000 state employees have reached tentative agreements with the Brown administration to extend their existing contracts for another year.

The unions represent state skilled crafts workers in IUOE, Bargaining Unit 12; doctors and dentists in UAPD, Unit 16; psychiatric technicians in CAPT, Unit 18; and health and social service professionals in Unit 19, which is represented by AFSCME.

All four groups are working under contracts that expire July 1. The extensions freeze the status quo for the unions until after potential ballot box decisions on a state tax hike in November, including one promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown. The deals also set up a scenario where the entire unionized state workforce, roughly 190,000 employees in 21 bargaining units, will be under labor pacts that expire on July 1, 2 or 3 of 2013.

Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel Administration confirmed the agreements contained in four one-page letters that roll over the terms of the four existing contracts. The letters aren't yet available, but as soon as they are, The State Worker will link to them or post them here.

April 9, 2012
From the notebook: California's government hiring trends under Jerry Brown

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 report in today's Bee looks at how many first-time state workers the state has hired during Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's return to the executive branch. We also compare those figures with how many workers the state hired during GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's final year.

What follows are hiring tallies by job class and department from data provided to us by the State Controller's Office. The numbers show how many individuals were hired from January 2011 through last February, two more months than the hiring tables published with today's report:

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 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.

January 10, 2012
Poll: Will Jerry Brown successfully reorganize government?

If you haven't already, check out the list of agencies, departments, boards, offices and commissions that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to ax, reorganize and consolidate, then take our poll:

January 9, 2012
See Jerry Brown's California government streamlining plans

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Now that we've had time to digest Gov. Jerry Brown's hastily-unveiled 2012-13 budget proposal summary, we've boiled down the full list of changes he's suggesting to streamline state government:

January 6, 2012
Chat live with Jon Ortiz: Brown budget would cut 3,000 jobs

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget eliminates 3,000 state jobs, axes agencies

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's new budget plan would eliminate a few thousand state jobs and consolidate or ax nearly 50 state organizations, according to documents released this afternoon.

Brown's first draft of the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1 envisions reducing the state workforce by some 3,000 positions, mostly from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The cuts fill a small part of the $9.2 billion budget hole projected through June 2013.

When asked whether state workers could expect layoffs or job elimination through attrition, Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos said the goal is "reductions in positions."

The administration will "try to minimize the number of layoffs" by relocating employees whose positions have been eliminated, Matosantos said during an afternoon press conference. "But the total workforce will continue to go down."

November 17, 2011
Former Schwarzenegger adviser renews call for pension reform

Thumbnail image for 100126 David Crane 1.JPGDavid Crane, the jobs and economic growth adviser for former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and now president of Govern for California, says that pension changes need to be part of solving the multibillion-dollar state budget deficit expected next year.

Crane, whose group aims to help elect state legislators who demonstrate the "courage" to tackle major issues facing California, issued a statement in response to the Legislative Analyst's forecast Wednesday that the Golden State is headed for a nearly $13 billion shortfall going into fiscal year 2012-2013.

State workers remember Crane as a leading voice for changing the public pension system during Schwarzenegger's last term. He continues to write about pensions, although he's not directly involved in efforts by Gov. Jerry Brown or California Pension Reform to put reform measures on the November 2012 ballot.

Here's what the Democrat and successful global investor says lawmakers need to do:

• Renew the temporary tax increase adopted in February 2009;
• Enact the mandatory single sales factor corporate tax reform proposed by Governor Brown earlier this year but dedicate the revenues from that change to the general fund; and
• Enact the pension reform proposed by Governor Brown but modified to include proposals recently outlined by some pension reform groups to save more money in the short term.

Here's the full press release:

September 29, 2011
California hiring freeze shows 'critical' in the eye of the beholder

Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze order is pretty darn explicit: No hiring for jobs that aren't "critical" functions of a department's "core" mission. No hiring for positions that aren't front-line jobs providing essential front-line services, such as public safety jobs.

Toxic Substances' request No. I-0008, which we've posted below, said the department needed to hire a chief of its Office of Criminal Investigations (cost: $138,000 per year), to supervise its investigators and scientists. The public safety duties of the job made it a candidate for a freeze exemption, the department said, and leaving it empty would, "result in reduced law enforcement field presence in California."

That's not all. Leave the job unfilled, the department said, and you're weakening the deterrent for illegal hazardous waste dumping and you're hampering fair competition between businesses that follow hazardous waste handling and disposal rules and those businesses that don't.

Despite those dire predictions, the Brown administration slammed the request with three terse sentences:

September 19, 2011
From the notebook: Read the state hiring freeze documents

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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.

Our story in Sunday's fiber/cyber Bee uses data culled from hundreds of pages of forms submitted by dozens of state departments, agencies and offices seeking exemptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze.

Over the next two weeks, we intend to post daily links to the documents we used so that you can see the figures, read the departments' arguments for hiring and the Brown administration's responses.

Here's the first batch, Air Resources through Conservation:

September 15, 2011
Poll: What's the hiring temperature in state government?

We're working on a story about Gov. Jerry Brown's hiring freeze. We'd like to get state workers' perspectives into the piece: What are you hearing about hiring where you work? If you've received an SROA notice and are looking for a new position, how is it going? What are colleagues telling you?

This isn't for everybody. We're looking for people who wouldn't mind being on the record. The story would make it clear that you're not speaking for your employer. If you'd like to be part of our report, we'd like to hear from you. Call (916) 321-1043 or e-mail The story's deadline is 3 p.m. on Friday.

Meanwhile, here's our hiring freeze poll question:

August 11, 2011
Corrections issues layoff projections for parole division

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to terminate 841 employees in its parole division by September 2013, according to a new document issued Wednesday and obtained by The State Worker.

"Reductions reflect actual 'bodies' to be eliminated once unallocated positions, vacancies, limited term, out of class and retired annuitants have been deducted," footnotes in the document says.

The slashes to CDCR's Division of Adult Parole Operations aren't a surprise. Part of the budget that legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown passed earlier this year included shifting the state's parole functions to local government agencies. As that plan progresses, it means that state parole staff will be let go.

July 7, 2011
Chat live with The Bee's state budget expert today

chat logo.jpgWho are the winners and losers from this year's state budget battles? What does the budget mean for state workers? What's the outlook for next year and beyond? Bring your budget questions and observations to a live chat with Bee Capitol Bureau reporter Kevin Yamamura starting at 11:30 a.m. today on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

July 6, 2011
Steinberg talks about Democrats' plans to pursue pension fixes

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg shed some light this morning on the sort of changes to the state pension system that majority Democrats might pursue in the coming year.

"We are going to work in a bicameral fashion to ... come up with what we think is a very strong package," Steinberg said in an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau.

The Sacramento Democrat said he and his Democratic colleagues "would have been prepared to approve a package negotiated by the governor with the Republicans" as part of an agreement to hold a special election on taxes, but now that those efforts have failed he said his caucus is now preparing to move forward with their own reforms.

"What we put forward has to be strong, it has to be real, but it doesn't have to be what those who have an ideological agenda would demand as part of a negotiated solution," he said.

Steinberg pointed to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposals to eliminate purchase of air time, prohibit so-called pension holidays and retroactive pension increases and ban payment of pension benefits to employees who are convicted of a felony related to their job as "obvious" starting blocks for the package.

While Steinberg said he is "open" to discuss how to implement a pension cap or a 401k-style hybrid system for new employees "on a purely voluntary basis," he said he would not support altering future benefits of existing employees.

"I think they're vested rights," he said.

Steinberg said whether he will seek to put pension fixes on the ballot as part of a Democratic-sponsored signature initiative related to revenues or make changes legislatively is one of several "open questions" remaining as they work to put together a package.

"We're going to do things that are strong but that are done by majority vote," he said.

July 6, 2011
Poll: How are budget cuts affecting state employees' work?

It's not like the state went on a spending spree in 2010-11, but now that we've started the new fiscal year we're curious what the 2011-12 budget means for state workers.

How does the austerity translate in the offices, prisons and state hospitals and on patrols around California? What is it doing to workloads and morale? Have labor contracts reached in the last year set a floor and given a measure of security that offsets some of this year's budgetary stress?

Take our poll and leave your comments.

June 30, 2011
Attorney general, union see dire consequences to budget cuts

Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that a $71 million cut to the Division of Law Enforcement budget will "handcuff the state Department of Justice's ability to fight gang violence and disrupt the flow of drugs, guns and human beings across our border."

Harris' press release outlined dire consequences that include several hundred law enforcement positions cut and criminal prosecutions hampered. The AG called on lawmakers to restore the money.

Meanwhile, union leadership sought to reassure members that they were fighting the cuts. Al Cardwood, president of the Association of Special Agents-DOJ, sent a letter to members on Wednesday that included this paragraph:

I will tell you that AG Kamala Harris, Director Wallace and Deputy Director Lopes worked until late last night making telephone calls when the news hit the airwaves. Also, CSLEA President Alan Barcelona and CSLEA lobbyist Coby Pizzotti have been in constant contact with me during these latest developments and are working on our behalf.

Earlier, Barcelona signed this budget opposition letter and fired it off to legislators:
CSLEA letter opposing cuts to DOJ budget

June 27, 2011
Brown hints at budget cuts affecting state workers

Gov. Jerry Brown avoided getting into many details about the budget that he and Democrats have agreed on, but a few newsy nuggets of interest to state workers did surface during his 15-minute press conference with reporters a few minutes ago.

For a broader look at Brown's comments on the budget and those of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, click here to pick up Torey Van Oot's report on Capitol Alert.

The deal includes no taxes, since among Republicans "there is an almost religious reluctance" to avoid them, Brown said.

The governor was ready to wheel and deal on public pensions, but even that couldn't pull up the GOP's political anti-tax anchor. "I have to say, the pension proposals ... my office had the language written," Brown told reporters. "That's all now tabled."

The Democrats plan to pass a budget that makes another $150 million in cuts to each of the state's university systems and more cuts to the judiciary. (Brown hinted the the state's massive courthouse building project would be put on hold.)

The universities could see yet another $100 million in cuts triggered if state revenues don't meet higher estimates in the new budget plan.

Brown also nixed selling state properties and then leasing them back, a holdover idea from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration that Brown rejected and then said he'd reconsider.

June 22, 2011
Poll: What do you think about John Chiang's 'no pay' decision?

Several elected state workers (A.K.A. legislators) aren't happy about Controller John Chiang's decision to cut off their pay and per diem for failing to submit a balanced budget by June 15 (see this Capitol Alert roundup of lawmakers' quotes for the range of reaction).

This blog is interested in what state employees think about the matter. Is this a delicious comeuppance for a group that hasn't felt budget impasse consequences before? Or is Chiang's decision really working against the interests of state employees?

David Kieffer, executive director of SEIU California told The Bee not long ago that if lawmakers didn't make taxes part of a solution to the state's $9.6 billion shortfall, he thought Brown and the Democrats should go back to budget gimmicks.

"Arnold (Schwarzenegger) didn't do every gimmick. ... There's a bottomless pit of gimmicks," Kieffer said.

From that perspective, Chiang's action unjustly punishes lawmakers and could lead to deeper cuts that wind up costing government jobs or lend momentum to more public pension rollbacks that Republicans want.

So how do you see it? We're considering writing our Thursday column about what state workers think. We'd love to hear from you. Take our poll, make your comments below and e-mail your thoughts to and include your name and a contact phone if you'd like to be part of the column. We're all ears.

June 17, 2011
John Chiang's 'pay role': Will elected state workers get paid?

110617 Chiang at Capitol Bureau 2010 Amezcua.JPGWe've received about a dozen e-mails and three phone calls from state workers all asking the same question: Will lawmakers get paid for submitting a budget that Brown vetoed?

It all depends on what the state's checkwriter-in-chief decides. Controller John Chiang has set himself up as the arbiter for Proposition 25, the initiative that withholds elected state workers' wages (A.K.A. legislator's pay and per diem) if they fail to submit a balanced budget by June 15. While the measure doesn't name the controller as the person to decide whether the standard is met, the office has the power to cut paychecks -- or not.

That "pay role" is a powerful tool, as we saw when former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twice attempted to withhold state employees' wages to the federal minimum during budget impasses in 2008 and last year. In both cases Chiang defied Schwarzenegger and illustrated how his office can affect policy.

(In case you missed it, Brown dropped the lawsuit he inherited from the Schwarzenegger administration that sought to force Chiang's compliance.)

Brown and Treasurer Bill Lockyer, both Democrats, have said the budget passed by their own party is a sham. It's created pressure for Chiang, also a Democrat, to withhold the Legislature's pay and per diem in keeping with Proposition 25. Bee columnist Dan Walters weighed in today, saying, "If Chiang pays legislators, the rejected budget will look like a giant charade by Democrats to evade the law."

On Thursday, after Brown's speedy veto of the Dems' majority budget, the controller's office issued this release:

May 17, 2011
From the notebook: Where Brown's budget cuts state jobs

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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.

Our story in today's Bee looked at what Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget cuts mean for state employees, and Sacramento in particular. As we were casting our net for information on Monday, we asked Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer for a breakdown of the roughly 5,500 jobs that would go away under the proposal.

Here's what he sent our way:

May 16, 2011
How state employees figure into Jerry Brown's budget revision

Gov. Jerry Brown's wants to eliminate 43 boards, commissions, offices and task forces while cutting some 5,500 positions from state government, he said during this morning's press conference to announce his May state budget revision.

The "bulk" of employee cuts would be in Corrections, Finance Director Ana Matosantos said in remarks after Brown presented his budget. She didn't specify how many positions would be axed there or in other departments.

If the restructuring took effect Jan.1, 2012, the consolidations would save the state $82.7 million, about half of that from the general fund. Click here to download the section of the budget that contains a list of state entities that Brown wants to ax.

Some other cuts of particular interest to state employees:

May 16, 2011
What does parks closure mean for state employees?

110516 Governor's MANSION EXTERIOR Villegas.JPG

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to close 70 state parks and historic sites, but the impact shouldn't cost current permanent employees their jobs, according to the the union that represents park rangers and California's parks director -- assuming the state gets the tax revenues Brown wants.

The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association said that its representatives talked with the Department of Parks and Recreation about the shutdowns in March.

"At that time, DPR represented that no layoffs of full-time bargaining unit members were contemplated. However, if the tax extension sought by the Governor was not obtained and more drastic cuts were implemented, layoffs would be likely," the union said on its website.

California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said the department is expected to lose about 200 permanent positions, though most of those will come from eliminating some of the department's roughly 500 vacant posts.

"We're going to have to eliminate those positions and then move people around," Coleman said last week to Capitol Bureau reporter Torey Van Oot. "The layoff process will be initiated... but whether or not people at the end of the day will be unemployed, we're hoping not. We hope that we can save all of our permanent staff."

The state's layoff program allows senior employees whose positions are eliminated to displace junior colleagues in similar jobs, so it's likely that some park staff will have to move to continue working for the government.

"That can be very destructive to a lot of people because it's hard to move across the state if you have a spouse with a different job or things like that," Coleman said, "so I don't want to understate the challenge this is going to pose to our staff and the difficulty they are going to experience."

PHOTO: The California Governor's mansion, one of 70 state parks and historic sites slated for closure by Gov. Jerry Brown. Sacramento Bee file / Jose Luis Villegas

May 12, 2011
Assembly GOP proposes 10 percent state employee cost cut

Assembly Republicans have rolled out their own budget proposal, which, according to this report by Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Kevin Yamamura, includes a 10 percent cut to the state's employee costs:

Several of the GOP ideas would be highly contentious. It is hard to see how Democrats would slash state worker compensation by anything close to 10 percent after employees agreed to some concessions in new contracts within the last year. Assembly Republicans did not outline specific cuts but suggested the state could pursue layoffs or ramp up health care costs.

The story, posted on Capitol Alert, includes a link to the GOP proposal.

April 6, 2011
Online chats set for today and Thursday

chat logo.jpg
The Bee's Kevin Yamamura will host a live chat from 11 a.m. to noon today to discuss the status of state budget talks. You can join him here.

Speaking of chats, remember that we've scheduled, "Pensions, politics and public employees," for Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.. It will run live on The State Worker blog and at

If you can't join Kevin's chat or ours when they run live, you can check out the replays a little later at those same locations. Never participated in a chat? Here's one that ran Mar. 17.

March 26, 2011
A.M. Reading: GOP budget list includes public pension changes

Brown's Countdown, Day 76: Budget talks deteriorate as GOP unveils big request list
State budget talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican lawmakers deteriorated Friday as Republicans released a long list of proposals to overhaul California government that Democrats said had further divided the parties.

According to a document Senate Republicans provided to reporters, they asked Brown for pension cuts to current and future employees, as well as changes to teacher tenure that reward performance and a hard cap on future state spending, among dozens of ideas.

... The list provided by Republicans included notations of where Brown and Democratic leaders had agreed and disagreed, a rare unveiling that serves as a bad sign for negotiations. (Click here to see the GOP list provided to reporters.)

According to GOP notes, Brown is willing to accept a $106,000 per year cap on final pension amounts and impose new restrictions intended to block workers from spiking their payouts. But he rejected increases in cost-sharing, as well as any move toward a 401(k) style plan, for current employees. He was, however, open to creating a hybrid option for future workers.

Redistricting called cause of state budget impasse
It might sound crazy, but some political insiders think the budget impasse has less to do with anti-tax conservatives than redistricting. "Huh?" you say - well, here's how.

March 23, 2011
Budget panel discussion broadcast set for 10 a.m. today

110323 Brown countdown.jpgBee Capitol Bureau colleague and state budget brainiac Kevin Yamamura is one of nearly a dozen journalists, lawmakers and interest group representatives scheduled to chat about the state's fiscal struggles on Capital Public Radio at 10 a.m. today.

Clicking here will get you to Fixing California's Budget: Brown's Countdown and Beyond, moderated by Insight host Jeffrey Callison. The panel discussion is a product of cooperative budget coverage this year between The Bee and Capital Public Radio.

We expect the hour-long chat will veer into topics of keen interest to State Worker blog users, such as public employees' pay and pensions.

The show also will air live on Capital Public Radio's four news & information stations in Northern California: KXJZ (90.9 FM) in Sacramento, KKTO (90.5 FM) in Lake Tahoe and Reno, KUOP (91.3 FM) in Stockton and Modesto and KQNC (88.1 FM) in Quincy, and it will be distributed to more than 50 public radio stations in California on Capital Public Radio's statewide news network.

If you miss this morning's live discussion, you can catch the rebroadcast from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. today.

As of Tuesday night, Kevin was scheduled to appear with ...

March 1, 2011
States struggle to accurately forecast funds

Half of U.S. state governments overestimated their revenues by at least 10 percent in 2009, according to a new report by the Pew Center for the States, with serious consequences to budgets because the projections shape spending, cutting and tax policy priorities.

"States' Revenue Estimating: Cracks in the Crystal Ball," looks at what states estimated they would take in income taxes, sales taxes and corporate taxes from 1987 to 2009 and found that

• Errors in revenue estimates have worsened progressively during the fiscal crises that have followed the past three economic downturns. Between 1990 and 1992, a quarter of the states had errors of 5 percent or more. In 2001 and 2003, nearly half the states were off by 5 percent or more. In 2009, almost three in four states missed the mark by 5 percent or more.
• 2009, the first full fiscal year of the Great Recession, ended with the largest overestimates in revenue forecasting of any year studied. This translated to a roughly $50 billion shortfall that states had to cover.
• Unique among past downturns, the Great Recession was also notable for major declines in all three major state taxes, which comprise 72 percent of states' total tax revenues.

Here's the report:
States' Revenue Estimating: Cracks in the Crystal Ball

February 25, 2011
Try The Bee's updated state budget balancer

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed $27.6 billion in solutions to erase California's budget deficit through June 30, 2012 and provide a $1 billion reserve. These include program cuts, extended tax increases and shifting greater responsibilities to local governments.

Now you can try your hand at shaping California's fiscal future with The Bee's state budget balancer. Bee Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith updated the tool this week to include a few more options, such as more detailed choices on how to deal with schools.

We're planning to highlight what people on the front lines of government, state workers, think should be done. So check out the budget balancer tool by clicking here and then send your pithy, concise budget comments to Then watch for a roundup of budget balancing ideas in an upcoming Thursday State Worker column.

February 17, 2011
POLL: Should state workers take furloughs if the taxes don't pass?

February 16, 2011
Darrell Steinberg talks about Jerry Brown's hiring freeze

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was at the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce this morning to unveil legislation on regulatory reform and -- as a news release from his office put it -- make government more "nimble and responsive" to the demands of economic development in the state.

While he was there, a reporter asked about the freeze on state hiring that Gov. Jerry Brown announced yesterday.

"I think he wants to make it crystal clear that government is not going to grow," Steinberg said in part. "It can't grow. We are dealing with big deficits here."

Watch Bee colleague Hector Amezcua's video of Steinberg's full response below.

February 11, 2011
Legislative Analyst's Office takes aim at pensions

In today's Bee, Kevin Yamamura writes about the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office's latest take on California's public pension system: It seems unsustainable.

Jason Sisney, director of state finance for the Analyst's Office, appeared in a 14-minute video Thursday outlining ways lawmakers could reduce pensions for future employees throughout the public sector, including the University of California system, teachers and county government workers.

"Can the substantial disparity between public and private sector retirement benefits be sustained much longer?" Sisney asks in the video. "We think that it probably cannot."

Watch the analyst's video report below:

February 10, 2011
State government compensation trends nationwide

As Bee state pay database guru Phillip Reese notes in this lead story, both the number of state employees and the state's payroll cost fell last year.

So what's been happening in other states? The National Association of Governors and the National Association of Budget Officers surveyed state employee compensation changes in fiscal 2011. The results are contained in last year's "Fiscal Survey of the States." It notes that 27 states planned to reduce full time positions this year and 24 states said that they would be laying off employees. Several states reported declines in employee salary from furloughs, while other states said they were nixing cost of living or merit pay increases.

You can download the 84-page document here, although we've split out the five pages that focused on employee pay and benefits changes and embedded them below:

The Fiscal Survey of the States: State Employee Compensation Changes, Fiscal 2011

February 9, 2011
Union: Cut private contracts, 'develop revenue opportunities'

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says that California should find new "revenue opportunities" and could save more than $34 billion per year by dumping private contractors who do jobs that government employees could do for less.

"That's the amount that Sacramento spends every year paying private contractors to do jobs that civil servants can perform for roughly half the cost," says AFSCME's press release, which was issued this morning.

AFSCME says it culled those ideas and others from surveying the 180,000 workers it represents in various levels of California government. The union now wants to form "workplace-level, labor-management efficiency teams" to find and capture ways for government to save money.

Besides raising revenues and curtailing outside contracts, AFSCME says government should do more of the following:

February 9, 2011
Jerry Brown cancels state building sale

Gov. Jerry Brown has canceled the sale-lease back of state buildings. Follow sister blog Capitol Alert for details as they emerge.

"The sale of the buildings really didn't make much sense," he said. Brown proposed more internal borrowing, using Medi-Cal funds and Assembly Bill 900 funds for prisons to plug the $1.2 billion budget hole created by canceling the sale.

February 4, 2011
Poll: What do you think of Brown's order to cut state vehicles?

This item first posted on Jan. 31, but we're bringing it back so that State Worker blog users can see the results now that item has been pushed off the home page.

Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the state's vehicle fleet slashed and new vehicle purchases stopped. The mandate followed an earlier edict that government agencies and departments cut the number of cell phones issued to state workers.

(By the way, here's a perspective on Brown's phone recall by John Thomas Flynn of TechLeader.TV: "Jerry Brown, Cell Phones and the Law of Unintended Consequences.")

We're always interested in gauging what this blog's users think about these sorts of policies. Hence today's poll question:

February 3, 2011
Analyst says Legislature should consider pay cuts

LAO logo.jpgThe Legislature should consider cutting state workers' pay, according to a new, grim review of what Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan means for California's civil servants.

The Legislative Analyst's Office notes that Brown says departments won't make about one-third of the cuts required in the 2010-11 general fund budget. Furthermore, the LAO says, Brown's budget plan for 2011-12 contains several suspect assumptions about employee cost savings.

Let's hit this point by point:

February 1, 2011
Jerry Brown, government downsizer

After his State of the State speech Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown took media questions. Bee colleague and Capitol Alert blogger Torey Van Oot passed along her notes from the scrum about what the governor said when asked whether he would make more "symbolic" cuts, like his cell phone recall or state vehicle executive order.

"I think streamlining the state is more than symbolic," Brown said. "There are agencies that can be merged and layers that can be eliminated and I'm working on that."

When will Brown detail those mergers and consolidations? If recent history serves, he'll do it when it gives him maximum political impact.

One of Brown's political strengths is his sense of timing. When he ran for governor last year, he defied calls within his own party to fire back early at Republican Meg Whitman's multimillion-dollar negative ad campaign. His eventual win was a political tortoise-and-the-hare story (with help from Whitman's "nannygate" debacle). Brown knew that in politics the finish is more important than the start.

Now he's up against Reeps who are insisting early on that Brown's tax extension plan is a no go. Dems aren't happy with his planned cuts.

But rather than getting bogged down in a word war (remember Schwarzenegger's famous "girlie man" remark?), Brown going back to his tortoise strategy. So look for more cost-cutting announcements to trickle out of the administration over the coming weeks as the governor seeks to burnish his cost-cutter credentials -- and pressure members of his own party and Republicans on the other side to leave their comfort zones.

January 31, 2011
Department of Finance issues cell phone recall rules

110131 Finance seal.jpgThe state Department of Finance has issued the rules and forms for departments to inventory and turn in cell phones in keeping with Gov. Jerry Brown's Jan. 11 executive order to slash state-issued cell phones by 50 percent.

We've embedded the budget letter below. Click the following links for the detailed instructions and forms that departments are supposed to use to carry out Brown's order.

Cellular Device Inventory Reduction Instructions
Cellular Device Inventory Reduction Worksheet
Request for Cellular Device Exemption
Budget Letter 11 02: Cellular Phone Reductions

January 28, 2011
Read Jerry Brown's order to shrink the state vehicle fleet

As reported less than an hour ago on The Bee's Capitol Alert blog, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the state's vehicle fleet reduced and has placed a moratorium on new state vehicle purchases. Click here to read the order.

January 28, 2011
Jerry Brown: Cut back on state cars

Gov. Jerry Brown has just issued an order to reduce the state vehicle fleet and to stop purchasing new cars. Bee colleague David Siders has more on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

January 25, 2011
Electronic court reporting, bids for security would save money

110125 Court cuts.JPG
A new policy brief from the Legislative Analyst's Office puts meat on the bones of Gov. Jerry Brown's broad-stroke 2011-12 budget plan to cut a total of 7 percent of state funding to California's court system, a decrease of $272 million.

Among the LAO's suggestions to cut costs (listed in the table above): transition to electronic court reporting, allow private firms to bid for court security services and use more contract court interpreters.

Here's the eight-page policy brief:

January 22, 2011
A.M. Roundup: States' bankruptcy; Calif. Dems will make cuts

The discussion is heating up over whether Congress should enact laws allowing states to declare bankruptcy -- and thus sidestep existing pension obligations. Commentaries and a radio broadcast devoted to the topic are sprinkled into this morning's roundup of news and views of interest to State Worker blog users:

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifBrown's Countdown, Day 13: Steinberg says Dems will back governor's budget-cutting goal
California Senate Democrats will back Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of chopping $12.5 billion out of the state budget as part of a deal in which voters get a crack at a tax-hike extension measure in June, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told The Bee in an an interview Friday.

ISU research: State employees with degrees make less than private sector workers
Iowans who hold college degrees earn substantially more money if they work for private businesses instead of state government, according to Iowa State University research.

Bondholders, Unions In High-Stakes Battle Over State Bankruptcy
The oddly passive headline on the New York Times Page One story today ("A Path Is Sought For States To Escape Their Debt Burdens") obscures a very active behind-the-scenes battle in Washington.

January 22, 2011
Steinberg's budget town hall meeting streamed live today at 10 a.m.

steinberg.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is holding a state budget town hall today from 10 a.m. to noon at Sacramento's Belle Cooledge Library, 5600 South Land Park Drive. The California Channel plans to stream the event live on the Internet. Click here to open CalChannel's webcast page.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, speaks to The Bee's Capitol Bureau on Friday.
CREDIT: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

January 21, 2011
From the notebook: Budget shows cut to state work force

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

Our story in today's Bee looks at what Gov. Jerry Brown's budget says -- and doesn't say -- about the size of the state work force next year.

Here's information from his state budget proposal that lays out the number of workers the state will employ in 2011-12, translated into "personnel years," and what it will cost to compensate them. (Click on the table to see a larger version.)

2011-12 Schedule 4.jpg

You'll find the data above on PDF page 194 in Brown's budget 266-page budget summary, which you can download here. The numbers in the executive section of the table represent employees under gubernatorial authority. The figures include State Fund, CalPERS, CalSTRS and a few other quasi-autonomous groups, but you get the idea.


January 14, 2011
State workers talk about Jerry Brown's cell phone order, part 3

Our Thursday State Worker column in the fiber and cyber Bee looked at the range of state workers' reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown's order to cut the number of state cell phones by at least half.

This post is the third of three that publishes the state workers' e-mails and interviews behind the column. Click here for the first post and click here for part 2.

I do not have a State phone so I have no personal iron in this fire ...

This seems a terribly silly way to try to squeeze a couple of dollars out of the budget.

Taken to the extreme - we could eliminate all of those expensive computers that the State Employees use on the job ... go back to carbon paper and typewriters.

ALSO ... if one assumes that half of the eliminated cell phones are still under Contract .... Will that mean the State will have to pay Early Termination fees ???

24,000 phones times $175 = about $ 4.2 million.

I believe it is a silly and ill advised means of economizing ....

Sadly ... I think Jerry is showing his age on this one.

January 13, 2011
What would you tell Jerry Brown to go after next?

Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has started with a cell phone crackdown and has promised to go after state cars and to examine whether the state has misclassified some state workers as peace officers.

So what other drawers need to be pulled open in the state closet to start cleaning up clutter that is needlessly costing big government bucks? Leave your comments below. We're not talking about whether pensions need cutting, or whether pay should be pared back. That stuff is endlessly debated. We're talking about those "little" things that, when added together, can save millions -- like cell phones.


January 13, 2011
Column Extra: State workers talk about cell phones, part 1

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Gov. Jerry Brown's order Tuesday to cut in half the number of state-issued cell phones has been a big topic of conversation among state workers this week. On Wednesday we solicited e-mails and from state workers and followed them with phone calls. We also talked with employees outside the Capitol about Brown's crackdown. All that correspondence and conversation produced today's State Worker column in The Bee.

Here are some of the comments and e-mails from state workers. We're planning to post more later today and on Friday.


This is a good starting point for the new governor. Lets get rid of the cell phones. But in one of our meetings (an executive) already told us that he is asking his legal office to review the Executive Order and find the language to get around it ... He wants the language he needs to use in the justification to keep the cell phones. I can tell you that in most offices we could get rid of 70% of our phones without jeopardizing the work we do and without jeopardizing staff safety. But once again the deputy directors that are here from the last administration are going on the offensive to keep everything they have. These appointees are traveling from Sacramento to Southern CA like it's running out of style.

The question is will the governor consolidate, eliminate and tackle the big ticket items like, boards, commissions, and departments. This governor just like the last governor ONLY has one chance. If he goes in June asking us for tax increase (or to keep them the same) without making any changes to the boards, commissions, and departments his initiative WILL FAIL. The voters in CA are very smart and the Governor should do everything possible before he goes to the voters. That includes eliminating 70% of the boards and commissions, all agency departments etc....

January 11, 2011
More about state worker furloughs and Brown's budget

Today's online Q&A (click here for the replay) included many questions about the future of furloughs under Gov. Jerry Brown. It's a huge issue: About a third of unionized state employees in six bargaining units are still taking a three-day-per-month furlough hit to their pay.

Many state employees hoped that Brown would immediately end the policy-- which his election campaign criticized -- once he became governor.

The budget that Brown offered on Monday, however, assumes the policy will continue. Here are two key paragraphs from the employee compensation and retirement summary, which you can download by clicking here. We've underlined the sentence that touches on furloughs:

January 11, 2011
A.M. Reading (and Viewing): Budget analysis, reaction; unions weakened; Fla. pension fund 'myths'

Here's our morning round up of news and views of interest to State Worker blog users.

Brown's Countdown, Day 2: Governor looking for three-sided trick shot on budget
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a delicate trick shot Monday to balance California's budget: Persuade Democrats to slash social services, ask Republicans to place taxes on the ballot, then persuade voters to pay additional money for five more years.

State workers unhappy with Brown's budget plan (video above)
A lot of people are upset about Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to cut spending and raise revenue, especially tens of thousands of state workers.

State of the unions
The Great Depression invigorated the modern American labor movement. The Great Recession has crippled it.

January 10, 2011
More about $395 million budget 'augmentation' for Corrections

Thumbnail image for 100625 CDCR logo.JPGWe noted earlier today that Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan allows for a $395 million "augmentation" for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The money would go to pay correctional officers' salaries, inmate medical transportation costs and a few other things.

But does that mean Brown is assuming a contract with full hours and pay for correctional officers? Is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, one of six unions without a contract, going to escape a pay cut?

January 10, 2011
Brown's budget cuts private prison spending

Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGWe're still combing through the budget for items of interest to state workers, but some of the best observations are coming from folks like Blog User S, who notes that private prison expenditures fall by 45 percent next year under Brown's budget.

This year's California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget assumes $410 million paid to private firms for housing California inmates. Next year the expenditure would drop to $224 million.

Out-of-state private prison costs, the most expensive line item in the CDCR contracted facilities budget, would go from $272 million in the current year to $148 million in 2011-12.

Click here to see details of the CDCR budget.


January 10, 2011
Lawmakers, labor, business leaders react to Brown budget plan

Torey Van Oot, who runs the Capitol Alert blog, is rounding up reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan. She's adding remarks as they come in. Click here to see what the movers and shakers in labor, business and politics are saying.

January 10, 2011
Brown budget zeroes in on cell phones, cars and his own office

Two time-honored symbols of state excess, cell phones and vehicles, are targeted in the budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown this morning.

From page 7 of the introduction to the governor's 2011-12 budget (click here to open it):

Two areas of particular scrutiny will be the use of cell phones by state employees and the number of state vehicles. The state currently pays for about 96,000 cell phones, one for over 40 percent of all state employees. The Governor has set a statewide goal of reducing the number of cell phones by at least 50 percent. In addition, the Administration will reduce the number of vehicles the state maintains. There are approximately 13,600 light duty vehicles (cars, pickups, vans) in the state fleet, not including some 12,000 that are used for public safety. To reduce the number of vehicles in the state's fleet, the Administration will require each vehicle's purpose and necessity to be rejustified. Only vehicles necessary for critical state functions will be retained, and only when retaining such vehicles is cost effective.

The same introduction mentions cuts previously announced, including eliminating the Office of the Secretary of Education, cutting the Inspector General for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and trimming the governor's office budget by 25 percent.

January 10, 2011
Brown wants to cut payroll, offer cheaper health option

Gov. Jerry Brown said this morning that he wants state employees in unions without contracts to accept $308 million in concessions as part of a wide-ranging downshift in state spending. He also wants to add a lower health insurance option for state workers and retirees.

The cuts would be bargained to cover 63,000 state workers represented by California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment; California Correctional Peace Officers Association; California Statewide Law Enforcement Association; Professional Engineers in California Government; California Association of Professional Scientists; and International Union of Operating Engineers.

"This will all be done through collective bargaining and I'm sure there will be resistance. But that's what collective bargaining is for," Brown said.

Brown's budget proposal adds a "core health care option" that saves $72 million by providing "fundamental coverage at a lower premium," according to the 2011-12 budget summary of employee compensation and retirement.

The state faces at least a $25 billion deficit over the next 18 months. Along with cuts to employee compensation, Brown is proposing slashing college budgets, welfare and other services. He also proposed shifting many of the policies and services that the state now handles, such as juvenile justice and short-term inmate incarceration, to local governments.

It's not clear what the long-term impact would be to the size of state government or the number of state workers. To ease the transition, the governor wants the Legislature to put up a ballot measure to extend taxes or another five years set to expire this year. If the measure fails, he said, the impact to the budget is fairly simple to estimate.

"Look through those different slides" he said pointing to a monitor that detailed $12.5 billion in cuts across the government spectrum, "and multiply by two."

Brown demurred when asked about budget specifics if voters reject the tax extension: "Some people would say I'm putting a gun to their head, so I'm not going to do that."

January 10, 2011
Brown release leads with state worker pay cut

In a few minutes, Gov. Jerry Brown will release details of his budget plan to close a current $6 billion budget gap and a $19 billion or so shortfall projected for 2011-12. The lead of his office press release highlights state workers:

Governor Jerry Brown will release a balanced state budget today that slashes spending by $12.5 billion, including an eight to 10 percent cut in take-home pay for most state employees, and proposes a "vast and historic" restructuring of government operations. will have live coverage, chats and reaction throughout the day. Click here for more info.

January 7, 2011
Report lays out budget woes in California, three other states

Our sister blog, Capitol Alert, has a summary of a new study that looks at the budget problems in California and three other Western states. It concludes that California suffers more from a spending problem than a revenue problem, but the Golden State's problems aren't as severe as what Arizona faces.

A couple of points we noticed in the report by Brookings Mountain West and the Morrison Institute of Public Policy: The authors explain how much of the problem is tied to the way states do their business (structural deficits) and how much is economic circumstance (cyclical deficits). Also, the study doesn't specifically lay blame for state's budget problems on pension obligations.

Click here for the Capitol Alert post, which contains a link to the study.

November 10, 2010
Governor's lawyer argues to kill 'special fund' furlough rulings

A state appeals court should reverse a lower court's ruling that state workers in "special fund" departments were illegally furloughed, an attorney for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger argues in documents filed this week in San Francisco.

Attorney David Tyra contends in two mirror-image briefs submitted to the 1st District Court of Appeal that last month's furlough decision by the California Supreme Court "fully disposes of the issues" raised in SEIU Local 1000 v. Schwarzenegger et al. and UAPD v. Schwarzenegger et al..

Nearly a year ago, Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled in both cases that furloughing employees in departments funded entirely or in part with money outside the general fund was an "arbitrary, capricious and unlawful" act. He then ordered those workers returned to full hours and pay. Schwarzenegger immediately appealed, which kept furloughs in place.

Then the state Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 4 that the Legislature had tacitly approved Schwarzenegger's furloughs, which made the policy legal. On Oct. 7, the 1st District Court issued a letter to both state and union attorneys about the SEIU and UAPD cases:

Dear Counsel: As you are undoubtedly aware, on October 4 the Supreme Court filed its opinion in Professional Engineers in California Government v. Schwarzenegger, S183411. Should you conclude that the opinion does not resolve all issues in this appeal, the Court has directed me to inform you that additional briefing addressing the impact of the Supreme Court's decision may be submitted according to the following schedule. Appellants may file an initial supplemental brief no later than November 8, 2010. Respondent may file its brief on or before November 19, 2010. Appellants may file a reply brief no later than November 30, 2010.

That same day, the appellate court set a briefing schedule for California Correctional Peace Officers Association v. Schwarzenegger, another Roesch furlough ruling appealed by the governor. Click here for our recent post about that appeal.

The 1st District Court hasn't yet set a date for oral arguments in any of the cases.

What follows is Tyra's 10-page SEIU brief , which essentially says that applying the guidelines set down by the Supreme Court's ruling undercuts the Roesch decisions. (This link opens a virtually identical Tyra brief addressing the UAPD case.)

Plaintiff's brief in SEIU Local 1000 v.Schwarzenegger

October 26, 2010
Halloween humor at one state office

We've plucked this from our daily mountain of e-mail. Despite the times, some state workers still have a sense of humor.

101025 skeleton.JPG

October 15, 2010
Q & A: Ratification rules, the budget and the SEIU contract

101015 question.jpgWe have received hundreds of e-mails from state employees, academics and other reporters asking questions about the interplay between the new state budget and the SEIU Local 1000 tentative agreement. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

October 12, 2010
What's ahead for unionized workers without contracts

As the dust settles from last week's Supreme Court furlough decision, the SEIU Local 1000 tentative agreement and the 2010-11 budget legislation, the impact of the interwoven events is becoming more clear.

In this post we'll share some answers to questions about what this means to state workers whose unions don't have a contract.

October 12, 2010
Attorneys' union: Budget may give governor 'more authority'

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment says that the 2010-11 budget authorized by the Legislature may actually give Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger more authority over state workers.

Here's a paragraph from the union's Oct. 8 e-mail:

Many members have asked how the current furloughs can continue in light of the Supreme Court's ruling. The short answer is simply that the Governor concluded that because the opinion is not final for 30 days, he did not have to abide by it. The practical reality is that he was counting on the Legislature authorizing the furloughs again in this budget, just as the Supreme Court found they had done in earlier budgets. An early draft of the budget control language contained language that was very similar to the language relied upon by the Supreme Court in deciding that the Legislature had authorized furloughs, and may in fact grant broader authority to the Governor than the original language. Once the final version is in print, the CASE Board and legal team will analyze the budget control language to determine what options may be available.

The final version is in print. You can read SB 870 here. The section that applies to state employee cost cuts is in Section 3.91(a) on page 755. The language didn't change from the draft we posted here last week.

The CASE e-mail goes into some detail about the budget drama's final hours and how the employee contracts, pension reform legislation and the budget talks interlocked. Click here to view the CASE memo.

October 11, 2010
From the Notebook: Schwarzenegger's budget press conference

101008 schwarzenegger presser photo.JPGFrom the Notebook blog posts give you the notes, quotes and details that don't get into our state worker news stories but that inform the writing nonetheless.

Our Sunday story on changes made to state employee pensions in 2010-11 budget legislation included a quote from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's at his Friday morning press conference.

You can hear what else the governor said about pensions and the budget by clicking here. Schwarzenegger starts talking about pensions at around the 3-minute mark. (Note: Listening to the 21-minute recording requires an MP3 file player.)

Photo: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, talks to the press after lawmakers approved the budget at the Capitol Friday morning. Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua

October 7, 2010
Read budget bill language on employee compensation cuts

With some help, we've waded through the 800-page budget bill and found the language that lays out the $1.5 billion in employee compensation cuts that GOP and Democratic leaders in the Legislature are putting up for a vote. (Click here for one version of the measure, Assembly Bill 1630.)

Here's the key language. Note that lawmakers changes are in strike through and italics.

October 5, 2010
Chat follow-up: Furlough Friday (?), the budget, Columbus Day

Thumbnail image for 101001 caht logo.JPG* As we noted in our web chat this morning, the Schwarzenegger administration hasn't called off the "Furlough Friday" scheduled for this week, despite Monday's ruling by the California Supreme Court that furloughs have to be approved by the Legislature.

Here's what an e-mail from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear said: "The (Supreme Court's) order does not go into effect for 30 days so it does not affect Friday's (scheduled) furlough day."

That could change, however. Lawmakers could pass a budget between now and Friday that doesn't include anticipated savings from an Oct. 8 furlough day.

* Or it might. According to this report in today's Bee by Capitol Bureau colleague Kevin Yamamura, the budget deal under consideration includes roughly $900 million in cuts to employee compensation.

We've also heard, contrary to what we said during today's chat, that Schwarzenegger is prepared to sign a new budget within a day of the Legislature passing it. (It usually takes about a week for a bill to reach the governor's desk after passage.) If the Legislature passes a budget Thursday as currently planned, the governor could sign it Friday.

* Several chat users asked whether Columbus Day -- which is observed on Oct. 11 this year -- is a paid day off for state workers, given the recent ruling in Sacramento Superior Court that forcing employees in some bargaining units to work that day and Lincoln's Birthday violated their contracts.

As we noted during the chat, next Monday is a regular workday because the court's order doesn't take effect for 60 days. The administration could have decided to recognize the holiday, union attorney Gerald James told The State Worker, but it didn't. The Department of Personnel Administration addresses the issue on its website, which you can access by clicking here.

October 1, 2010
Breaking news: Lawmakers say they have a budget deal

The Bee's Kevin Yamamura is reporting that lawmakers have a "handshake deal" on a budget. Click here for the breaking news.

September 13, 2010
Bee interactive graphic lays out timeline of budget crisis

The Bee's graphics and multimedia staff have worked up an interactive chronology of the state's budget mess going back to 2008. We highly recommend it as a quick way to review the ins and outs of California's fiscal disarray and various points at which state workers have been pulled into the crisis.

Click here to see it.

September 6, 2010
From the notebook: More Labor Day story quotes and info

Thumbnail image for notebook.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 Labor Day story, a sort of "state of the state workers" piece, started at roughly twice the length of the finished product running in today's fiber/cyber Bee.

Among the details that didn't make the cut, an answer to a question we asked state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer: How many vacant state positions have been "swept" off the books? His e-mailed response:

From 2004-05 through 2009-10, 8,104 positions were eliminated pursuant to Government Code 12439. Positions eliminated in 2004-05 represent positions vacant for at least six months as of June 30, 2004 (that were not reestablished). Those positions represent the first positions eliminated pursuant to GC 12439 under Governor Schwarzenegger.

Approximately 3,350 additional positions were eliminated as a result of other vacancy reduction drills in 2008-09.

Click here to read Government Code 12439.

August 20, 2010
Should CalPERS loan money to the state?

As The Bee's Kevin Yamamura reports in this exclusive story, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has quietly approached CalPERS about a $2 billion loan from the fund to help close the state's $19 billion budget gap.

Good idea? Bad idea? Take our poll.

The Bee is looking for state workers to voice their opinions on this topic for a follow-up story for tomorrow. If you're interested, contact The State Worker by 4 p.m. today via e-mail with your name, phone number and a few pithy sentences about what you think. We're eager to talk to you.

August 9, 2010
Democrats' budget plan relies on contract concessions

Colleague Kevin Yamamura covers the state budget for The Bee, and has posted an analysis of the implications for state workers in the Democrats' proposal. Check it out at Capitol Alert.

August 5, 2010
Column Extra: Read the broken lock e-mails

Today's State Worker column takes a ground-level look at the budget impasse, and how it appeared for a while that it would literally take an act of the Legislature to get a broken employee entry door lock fixed at the Inglewood office of UIB's Southwest Primary Adjudication Center.

A state worker prompted us to write the column after faxing along two e-mails to staff from Ron Myracks, who comes through in his memos as a concerned mid-level manager caught by forces beyond his control.

Here are Myrack's July 22 and July 23 e-mails to staff about the lock, which we understand was being repaired late Wednesday afternoon:

July 30, 2010
Jack O'Connell: 'I maintain my opposition to furloughs'

100730 O'Connell 2009 Jose Luis Villegas.JPGWe've been calling the state constitutional officers to see if any plan to furlough their employees next month in keeping with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's new executive order. All have refused earlier furlough orders, citing what they believe is their constitutional independence to control their own employees.

In response to our query, Department of Education information officer Tina Jung sent over a recent e-mail to all staff from Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction:

July 30, 2010
Budget talks, labor talks and 'the dance of negotiating'

Wednesday's order to resume furloughs next month essentially doubled-down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bet that he has the authority to impose unpaid days off on state workers. It's also a high-stakes gamble that the policy will wring concessions from state labor unions and squeeze the Legislature, now seven weeks late on passing a budget, to craft a deal that includes significant reductions to employee pensions.

Will it work?

July 30, 2010
The budget impasse, converted to furlough dollars

Correction: An earlier version of this post included psychiatric technicians as a group that will work on a self-directed furlough schedule. Psychiatric technicians are exempt from furloughs under the terms of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest furlough order. We regret the error.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100715 Senate Logo.jpgWelcome to Day 30 without a 2010-11 state budget. Here's one way to think of the delay's cost to state workers:

The Schwarzenegger administration figures that each day that the state goes without a budget costs the state another $50 million. That means as of today, the state has burned through $1.5 billion due to legislative inertia.

The Legislature has been on paid vacation this month.

assembly seal.gifCoincidently, the furlough program ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lops off just about $50 million in state payroll costs for every day that the 156,000 workers impacted by it take an unpaid day off. (Many employees such as correctional officers will work full schedules, take the pay hit but may have to defer the time off, depending on departmental needs.)

In other words, it would take 10 months of furloughs just to make up for cash burned through by lawmakers' budgetary procrastination.

July 28, 2010
Eight departments exempt from Schwarzenegger's furloughs

As we've just reported, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued a new executive order that requires state employees take three furlough days per month until lawmakers enact a 2010-11 budget.

The order exempts the following departments:

California Highway Patrol
California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection (CalFIRE)
Franchise Tax Board
Board of Equalization
Employment Development Department
State Compensation Insurance Fund
California Housing Finance Authority
California Earthquake Authority

It also excludes Bargaining Units 12, 16, 18 and 19, which along with unions representing CHP officers and state firefighters, recently reached tentative agreements with Schwarzenegger.

Click here to read the executive order.

VIDEO CREDIT: Dino Gomez, a California state worker with the Department of General Services, reacts to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's order to start three days of furloughs a month starting Sunday. Video by Hector Amezcua/

July 22, 2010
GOP Assembly leader: Union agreements 'headed in the right direction'

100722 ha_martin_garrick 2009.JPGAssembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick said this afternoon that recent agreements between six unions and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are 'headed in the right direction," but he stopped short of saying the Republicans were already on board with the deals.

We talked briefly with Garrick this afternoon, not long after the Assembly Republican Caucus took aim at California's bureaucracy in a press release titled, "It Takes 25 California Private Sector Jobs to Support One State Employee Job."

The release, citing various state government sources for it's statistics, juxtaposes California state and private jobs numbers. Example: California has lost nearly 1.3 million jobs since 2005; state government has added 38,100 jobs during the same period.

Aside from the usual debate that arises whenever you look at these kinds of numbers, we wondered: What does this say about where Garrick and the Assembly GOP stands on the six tentative agreements?

July 14, 2010
John Chiang responds to charge in minimum-wage battle

Controller John Chiang visited The Bee's Capitol Bureau offices this morning for a wide-ranging conversation with reporters and editors about the state budget, his campaign for reelection and his legal battles with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over paying state workers minimum wage.

In this clip, Chiang responds to charges that he is fighting the governor's minimum-wage pay instructions at the behest of public employee unions.

Videographer Hector Amezcua is editing more clips. We'll post them as they become available throughout the day.

July 6, 2010
Video: Aaron McLear talks about minimum wage, says state workers 'do a great job'

Aaron McLear, who often speaks on behalf of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, talked with KCRA (Channel 3) on Friday about the legal fight over withholding state worker pay to minimum wage and connected it with the state budget stalemate.

During the interview McLear expresses regret that "valuable public servants who do a great job for the people of California" face an increasing likelihood of "minimum wage, more furloughs and layoffs" as budget talks drag on into the new fiscal year.

Click the viewer above to see the interview.

June 28, 2010
Golden 1 keeps quiet about budget impasse plans

We've been hearing from state workers who want to know if The Golden 1 credit union plans to offer low- or no-interest loans to state workers if a budget impasse leads to minimum wage.

So we asked Terry Halleck, president and chief executive of The Golden 1. She said that the Sacramento-based cooperative is "monitoring" budget developments, but stopped short of saying that it will loan money to state workers if their pay is temporarily withheld.

And until the state does something definitive, the company won't have anything else to say, Halleck told The State Worker.

For years, The Golden 1 has offered zero-interest loans to the 1,100 or so legislative staff who receive no pay when lawmakers fail to pass a budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline. Only Golden 1 members with direct payroll deposit qualify for those loans, however.

During the 2008 budget impasse, the credit union teed up a broader loan program when it looked like state employees' pay was going to be withheld. Click here to read more about how the plan would have worked had Chiang complied with the pay letters.

California state employees started The Golden 1 in 1935. Today, roughly 100,000 of its 680,000 members are state workers. The credit union is California's largest financial co-op and the sixth-biggest in the country with nearly $7 billion in assets.

June 25, 2010
Radio show cage match: Chiang vs. McLear on minimum wage

Controller John Chiang and Schwarzenegger administration spokesman Aaron McLear crossed swords Thursday on Patt Morrison, a Southern California public radio show that airs on KPCC (FM 89.3). Union representative Dave Low also joined the discussion for the first part of the broadcast.

The discussion mostly focused on the state worker minimum wage battle in the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Chiang's opening rhetorical question: "Why are innocent taxpayers and public servants always the first to suffer whenever the governor and legislature fail to do their jobs?" He said he's trying to protect the state from big fines because the state's payroll processing methods won't allow his office to withhold wages and then restore full pay within federal fair labor standards.

June 16, 2010
The state budget's history

The Assembly has an online chart that details the dates of when lawmakers passed state budgets and governors signed them going all the way back to 1968.

Click here to view the table.

Thanks to blog user L for shooting this interesting link our way.

June 15, 2010
Controller's July payroll figure assumes state worker pay cut

100615 Controller pay chart.JPG

A new post on Controller John Chiang's website mentions state employee payroll is one of several obligations that his office will continue to pay even if lawmakers fail to pass a budget by the end of this month.

Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper said that the payroll figure, $2.1 billion for July, comes from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's May budget revision and assumes the payroll cost reductions he has proposed for fiscal 2010-11. The governor has proposed cutting all state workers' pay by 5 percent and upping their pension contributions by another 5 percent of their gross pay, but there's no sign an agreement will be in place before the fiscal year begins July 1 to implement the pay cuts.

The controller also sent this letter to lawmakers, triggered by their usual failure to get a budget done by the June 15 deadline laid out in the constitution.

"At a time when the economy is showing signs of recovery, we can ill-afford the 'business as usual' approach of requiring the state to be driven to the brink of a fiscal meltdown before compromise is achieved."

This story by Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders has more about the largely symbolic deadline.

June 15, 2010
Dates, deadlines will impact state workers

calendar.jpgA recent e-mail from blog user D, who regularly corresponds with The State Worker and contributes to the blog behind the scenes, summed what many folks are saying as June 30 approaches:

There are four significant dates that state workers will be watching and two significant events that could happen any time:

June 9, 2010
Report: Administration backs away from 5 percent pay cut

The Association of California State Supervisors is reporting that the Department of Personnel Administration is backing away from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's demand that state workers' pay be cut by 5 percent.

The association's board and staff members met with DPA Deputy Director Julie Chapman on Monday. According to these ACSS notes from the meeting, "The permanent 5 percent pay cut is off the bargaining table."

But the administration's new approach still includes cuts, according to the ACSS notes:

June 7, 2010
States' tax revenue overall up from a year ago

100607 Tax map.JPG

California tax collections helped states' overall revenues increase in the first quarter of this year when compared with the same period in 2009, according to preliminary data reported by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. It's the first time year-over-year revenues have been up since the third quarter of 2008.

A majority of states still saw declines. The overall growth came largely from increases in California and New York, which enacted tax increases. Take them out of the mix and total collections across the nation show a 2.2 percent decline in the first quarter of 2010. Even with those two sizeable states factored in, revenues overall were still significantly below pre-recession levels.

And early indications of revenues for April through June quarter -- and June is the end of the fiscal year for 46 states -- aren't looking so hot. April income tax collections showed a 7.6 percent year-over-year decline.

Click here to download the 8-page report.


June 4, 2010
June state payroll won't be withheld, administration says

100603 Department of Finance Seal.jpgState workers don't have to worry that their paychecks for June will be reduced to federal minimum wage, a Department of Finance spokesman said this week, ending speculation that an arcane state budget fix last year gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the authority to order wages withheld for this month.

July payroll, however, could be reduced if budget talks drag on much past the June 30 end of the fiscal year, said Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

State workers have been wondering if their June pay would be withheld to the least allowed by federal law, $7.25 per hour for most employees. Legislation passed last year to plug a $20 billion hole in the 2009-10 general fund budget included pushing this month's payroll expenses to the July 1 start of the 2010-11 fiscal year.

That meant, technically, that the state has no funding set aside for June payroll, which is paid July 1. And legislative consultants concluded that could have opened the door for Schwarzenegger to invoke a 2003 California Supreme Court decision that the state can't pay employees' beyond the legal minimum when there's no budgeted money for wages.

The governor invoked that court ruling when budget talks deadlocked in 2008. He ordered pay withheld with the balance returned to employees when lawmakers appropriated the money in a new budget. Controller John Chiang refused on legal and logistical grounds. Schwarzenegger sued and won a lawsuit to force Chiang to comply. Chiang filed an appeal.

Although there's no money budgeted for June payroll yet, the administration concluded that "individual departments still have appropriating authority through June 30," Palmer said. "June payroll will not be affected" by what is strictly an accounting device.

But July pay could be reduced he warned, he warned, if a budget impasse drags on into the new fiscal year.

State employee unions have tried to change the law so that state workers are paid when budget talks stall. Their latest attempt Assembly Bill 1699 cleared the lower chamber on Thursday with 54 votes and now goes to the Senate.

Meanwhile, the legal tussle between Schwarzenegger and Chiang is about to resume. Chiang's appeal goes to oral argument before the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento on June 21.


May 28, 2010
Poll: Furlough arguments months away; budget before or after?

Although the state Supreme Court has set a pretty quick time line for both sides to file briefs in CASE v. Schwarzenegger, it looks like the matter won't go to oral arguments until September at the earliest.

The last deadline for briefs in the case is July 9, and the court doesn't hear oral arguments that month or in August. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court works during the summer and occasionally holds "special sessions," spokeswoman Lynn Holton told The State Worker, but there was nothing in the court's order that indicated one would be called.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are confronting a $19 billion budget deficit and appear to be a long way from agreeing on how they'll close it. Could an impasse drag into September?

May 28, 2010
SEIU-funded study blasts Schwarzenegger budget

A study released Thursday by the UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education says that the governor's proposed budget would cost the state 330,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. That would hike California's unemployment rate by another 1.8 percentage points. The bulk of the losses, according to the study, would come from major health and human service programs that bring in federal matching funds.

Worth noting: The study was funded by Service Employees International Union.

We asked for a response from Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear, who noted that the center was also behind a study that similarly criticized furloughs.

"This is essentially an SEIU press release that proposes to raise taxes," McLear said.

Also worth noting: The administration hasn't provided statistics refuting either of the Berkeley studies.

Click here to read the Berkeley report.

May 24, 2010
AFSCME pushes budget plan; SEIU blasts May revise

The American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees has been promoting a plan to close California's budget gap that includes:

  • Phasing out the state's enterprise zone program
  • Repealing tax breaks given to multinational corporations
  • Ending offshore tax shelters used by multinational corporations
  • Imposing an oil severance tax
  • Increasing the tobacco tax
  • Extending a reduced sales tax to services such as entertainment and sporting events
  • Returning high-income personal tax brackets to what they were under the Reagan and Wilson administrations

The plan doesn't include any cuts.

Click here for an 11-page summary of AFSCME's budget proposals, which it says would generate $30 billion in annual revenues for the state.

Meanwhile, SEIU Local 1000 is hammering Schwarzenegger's May budget revision as a "non-starter" on the union's website. And, as Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker points out, the union accepted a contract with concessions last year only to see it twice die in the Legislature because the governor's own party refused to put up the votes.

Clearly, that episode created mistrust for the unions as they now talk to the administration about contracts, since there's some question about whether Schwarzenegger would deliver on any deals struck at the bargaining table.

May 17, 2010
Meg Whitman talks about Schwarzenegger's budget cuts

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said after a Roseville event this morning that she supports the state employee salary cut contained the budget revision that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released on Friday. She also crticized the governor for failing to do "the hard work" over the last few years to cut government costs.

Worth noting: Schwarzenegger has tried several of the ideas that Whitman and her GOP rival Steve Poizner have proposed, such as reviewing state government to root out waste, fraud and abuse. For more about that, check out this Sunday story written by Bee colleague Jack Chang with a hand from your humble blogger.

In related news, Whitman also talked about forming a state grand jury to go after waste, fraud and abuse, as Torey Van Oot reports on our sister blog, Capitol Alert. Whitman's campaign released this press announcement, outlining the candidate's get-tougher plan, which includes elevating the inspector general to a cabinet-level post with "real teeth."

Click here to view Bee videographer Hector Amezcua's clip of Whitman talking about some of Schwarzenegger's budget proposals.

May 17, 2010
Kern Valley corrections staff staging 'refugee camp' protest

100517 Kern camp.JPG

Kern Valley State Prison correctional officer Ian Pickett, one of this blog's most prolific users, says that he and coworkers have started a week-long "State Worker Refugee Camp-out" across the street from the prison. The camp (pictured above) is intended to draw attention to, "The current attack on our pay (that) is sending a lot of us into increasing debt, becoming insurmountable," Pickett said in a mass e-mail.

Click here to view a flier promoting the camp.

IMAGE: Correctional officers have set up a makeshift camp near Kern Valley State Prison, intending to stay for a week. They're protesting pay cuts brought on by furloughs and proposed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget.
CREDIT: Courtesy Ian Pickett

May 17, 2010
Union opens fire on Schwarzenegger budget

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has issued the union's thoughts about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest budget proposals and the budget process itself:

"... completely unacceptable."
"... a cynical attempt to revive a series of discredited proposals ... "
"... another sequel in Sacramento's ongoing saga of budget apocalypse ..."

AFSCME says that the state would realize nearly $40 billion in savings and increased revenues by ending private contracting, dumping tax breaks given to multinational companies and whacking the state's enterprise zone program.

Click here to read the union's press release.

May 14, 2010
LAO weighs in on Schwarzenegger's unpaid personal leave plan

100514 LAO legislative analysts office logo.JPGThe non-partisan Legislative Analyst' Office has an analysis of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal for state workers to take off one unpaid personal leave day per month.

The proposal would save the state's general fund roughly $446 million for fiscal 2010-11, according to administration estimates, and other funds would save about $349 million. Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola said that the plan "requires bargaining and/or legislative action."

And Schwarzenegger's budget plan still includes a 5 percent wage cut and a requirement that all state workers boost their pension contributions by 5 percent of their earnings.

"I will not sign a budget until we fix our broken systems," Schwarzenegger said this afternoon. "I will not sign a budget if we don't have pension reform and budget reform."

Bottom line: If Schwarzenegger gets everything he wants -- the leave day, the pay cut, the pension contribution hike -- state workers' take home pay would stay about the same as it is now under the soon-to-end furlough policy. But employees would work more.

From the LAO's analysis, which you can read by clicking here:

In our view, the Legislature has to decide whether employee compensation reductions should be scored and implemented subject to collective bargaining or, alternatively, whether to implement statutory measures to bypass the existing collective bargaining process, as the Governor has proposed. The PLP concept--similar in some respects to "self-directed furloughs" in departments, as well as the collectively-bargained Service Employees International Union Local 1000 agreement that was not approved in 2009--is one more option at the Legislature's disposal. The total amount of personnel cost savings that the Legislature will need to target will depend on the other choices that it makes in putting together the 2010-11 budget package.

May 14, 2010
Schwarzenegger wants to replace furloughs with a leave day

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's revised budget proposes a one-day-per-month of unpaid leave for state workers in 2010-11. The state would reduce employee pay 4.65 percent each month; employees would receive a credit to take the time off.

The credits would have no cash value, so employees couldn't get money for them upon retirement or separation from the state. However, employees would be told to use accumulated unpaid leave time before taking paid leave, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman said.

Schwarzenegger still plans to end the current furlough program on June 30.

Read more in Kevin Yamamura's breaking news story about the budget by clicking here.

May 13, 2010
Column Extra: Read the CalPERS proposal to boost employer pension contributions

Today's State Worker column in The Bee notes that CalPERS actuaries are recommending the fund's board boost the state's pension contribution by $600 million for the next fiscal year. Click here to read the actuaries' report, which lays out the rationale for the increase.

The board will take up the matter next week.

May 12, 2010
Poll: Budget predictions

With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set to issue a revised 2010-11 budget proposal on Friday to close a $20 billion projected shortfall, Bee colleague Kevin Yamamura writes in today's Bee that

Budget experts do not expect a substantial change in the deficit size when Schwarzenegger releases his revision. But his plan will inflict more pain because he has to replace January solutions, worth several billions of dollars, that fell short due to legislative opposition or his own rosy projections.

The federal government hasn't come through. April revenues didn't meet expectations. Various plans to raise money -- offshore oil drilling, cameras to catch red light runners at intersections, tax hikes -- have been withdrawn or rejected. Ditto for cuts to social services and prisons recommended by the Legislative Analyst's Office.

All of this will make it extremely difficult for lawmakers to reach a budget compromise by the end of June. Since it's unlikely that the state will have a budget by the July 1 start of the 2010-11 fiscal year, we want to know what you think a delay would mean for state employees.

May 10, 2010
Appellate court date set for Gilb v. Chiang

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpg Sacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeal has set June 21 at 9:30 a.m. to hear arguments in Gilb v. Chiang.

The case involves a lawsuit filed by former DPA chief Dave Gilb to force Controller John Chiang's compliance with administration pay letters that ordered state worker pay withheld to the federal minimum until a budget deal was reached.

Long after the budget impasse that prompted the order ended, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley sided with the administration. You can click here for our earlier reporting about the case with a timeline of events and strong> links to court documents.

Scroll to the bottom of this linked page to read the appellate court's hearing announcement. We'll write more about the proceeding as the date gets closer.

May 4, 2010
Department of Fair Employment and Housing to close offices

The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week told 22 employees in San Diego and Santa Ana that those offices will be closed in November.

The employees have the option to relocate to the department's Elk Grove headquarters, department spokeswoman Annmarie Billotti told The State Worker in a telephone interview. The shutdowns are projected to save the state about $200,000 annually.

DFEH, with a staff of about 200 employees, enforces California's civil rights laws.

The department also has moved its Los Angeles office into a smaller space. Ultimately it will have three regional offices -- Elk Grove, Oakland and Los Angeles -- with satellite operations in San Jose, Fresno and Bakersfield.

The department says it saved about $1 million this year consolidating offices in Los Angeles and Elk Grove.

"We're downsizing the space but retaining the positions," Billotti said.

March 16, 2010
Budget gimmick looks like an earlier chance to withhold pay

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 7-3 on Monday to approve AB 790, which would establish employee payroll as a continuous appropriation. The measure now goes to floor and could come up for a vote later this week.

We've written about the bill before, but the latest Senate analysis of the measure includes an angle on state worker pay that we've considered for weeks but until now couldn't answer:

Did last year's decision to move the June 2010 payroll costs into the 2010-11 budget year move up how soon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could order state worker wages withheld to the federal minimum if there's a budget delay?

Click the following link for more about how last year's budget legislation could impact state worker pay.

February 22, 2010
Poll: Will General Services' new certification policy work?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 081124 de la Torre.jpgAfter several departments took a beating at an Assembly Accountability & Administrative Review hearing on Feb. 10, the Department of General Services issued a memo last Thursday that requires agency secretaries, department directors or their assigned representatives certify that all purchases are "mission critical." (Click here for Andrew McIntosh's report on the policy.)

"(N)o work will be initiated, no documents will be reviewed, and no contracts will be approved without the certification," the DGS memo says.

Staff members of the committee, which is chaired by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, found that DGS approved the following in 2009: $30 million for furniture, $43.4 million on light duty and passenger vehicles (the figure excludes emergency vehicles) and $2.3 million for conferences and outside meetings. Bee Capitol Bureau colleague Jim Sanders covered the hearing in this report.

Click here to see the video of the hearing. The meeting starts at the 14-minute mark of the 3-hour hearing. You can read the DGS memo, issued Thursday but made retroactively effective to Feb. 11 -- the day after the committee hearing -- by clicking this link.

Now it's your turn. Weigh in on our poll. And, as always, we welcome your comments.

IMAGE: Hector De La Torre /

February 4, 2010
Majority-vote budget initiative OK'd to collect signatures

The Secretary of State's office has authorized signature collection for a November ballot initiative that would make several changes to California's budget process, including passage by a simple majority instead of the current two-thirds requirement. It would, however, retain the two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes and allow the governor to make unilateral budget cuts during a fiscal crisis if the Legislature fails to act.

Click here to read the Secretary of State's announcement and details about the initiative.

The proponents, James C. Harrison and Thomas A. Willis, are partners at Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, a firm with a long history of representing Democratic politicians and causes. They need signatures from 694,354 registered voters by July 1 for the initiative to go before voters in November.

Harrison and Willis already have permission to collect signatures for another measure that allows budget passage by a simple majority. That initiative also mandates that legislators permanently forfeit their pay and per diem for each day past June 15 that the state goes without a budget. Click here for more about that measure.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100119 ballot box.jpg


February 4, 2010
Column extra: The memo, the numbers, a quote

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today's column lays out why the Division of the State Architect is going to a "self-directed" furlough program for architects who review school construction plans. One thing we didn't mention in the column: The division also stopped alternative work schedules for affected employees while it presses to reduce "bin times."

If you haven't already, read the column by clicking here and then check out these links for more info:

The State Worker spoke to Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, which represents the 200 or so architects switching to self-directed furloughs at DSA. We asked him what he thought of the policy: "It's a pay cut," he said.

"The governor may be able to tell people to stay home and not be paid -- that's what's in the courts right now," Blanning said during a brief Wednesday afternoon telephone interview. "But the governor doesn't have the authority to tell people to come to work and not be paid."

As we mentioned in the column, the Schwarzenegger administration says self-directed furloughs are legal and necessary for the state to conduct its business. An Alameda judge ruled the the policy is illegal for state prison officers. Schwarzenegger is appealing (although CCPOA contends the that appeal is flawed). Read more about the CCPOA lawsuit by clicking here.

February 1, 2010
Department announces developmental center closure

100201 Lanterrman.JPGThe Department of Developmental Services is planning to close Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona. The department didn't announce when the 24-hour facility would go dark.

In this letter to staff on Friday, Director Terri Delgadillo said that Lanterman's operating costs are the highest per patient of its five facilities statewide. It's also "one of the oldest facilities, and its infrastructure is in need of major repairs and capital improvements, all of which would require a significant investment of state funds over the next few years," Delgadillo said in the letter.

Click the following link for more information about Lanterman and how long it might take to close it down.

February 1, 2010
Labor talks loom; SEIU Local 1000 president blasts 5/5/5 plan

The Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee last week heard testimony about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 5/5/5 proposal to cut state workers' pay, reduce departmental payroll costs and raise what employees contribute to their own pensions.

The hearing went about three hours (click here to view it) with government officials, union representatives, lobbyists and state workers chipping in their remarks. To get a flavor of the afternoon discussion, The State Worker asked folks at the Department of Personnel Administration and at Local 1000 to give us statements to post here.

The Department of Personnel Administration sent us this paragraph as characterizing Chief Deputy Director Julie Chapman's statement near the start of the Thursday hearing:

We've had private discussions with some unions and anticipate moving to formal negotiations soon. We've been discussing possible negotiation dates with others, and the unions are checking with their bargaining teams to see what dates work for them. We expect to be back to the table as early as next week.

Click the following link for text of Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker's remarks.

January 28, 2010
Pay appropriation bill dead; Schwarzenegger on withholding wages

A couple of items we thought State Worker blog users would want to know about:

AB 1125, the bill that would have made funding for state worker payroll a continuous appropriation, has died in committee. It's defeat leaves open the possibility that state workers' wages could be withheld to the federal minimum if lawmakers fail to pass a budget by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

Click here to read more about the issue. We hear the plan could pop up again soon in another bill.

Click the following link to read what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said when asked about withholding state worker pay to the federal minimum.

January 27, 2010
LAO says pay cuts needed, questions Schwarzenegger plan

The Legislative Analyst's Office has released it's analysis of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's so-called 5/5/5 plan to cut state worker pay, downsize the workforce and shift a greater portion of pension costs from employers to employees. Click here to read our story. This link will open the LAO report.

From the report's summary:

This report discusses some key issues facing the Legislature in the employee compensation area of the budget. In 2009-10, the state has achieved significant savings due to the Governor's furlough program, which is being challenged in many court cases. For 2010-11, the Governor proposes various measures to reduce state personnel costs, including shifting pension contribution costs from the state to employees, unallocated reductions in personnel budgets of departments, and an across-the-board salary reduction for employees. These proposals would result in $2.5 billion in savings ($1.4 billion General Fund). We believe that employee compensation reductions are necessary due to the magnitude of the budget problem. Nevertheless, some of the administration's proposals would face legal challenges or otherwise may be difficult to implement. Consequently, we recommend that the Legislature focus efforts to reduce compensation costs on pay reduction options.

January 26, 2010
The zero-pay state workers

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for payroll.gifOur most recent State Worker column outlines the possibility of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger resurrecting an order to temporarily reduce state employees' pay to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour if lawmakers fail to pass a budget by the end of June. Once a deal is in place -- which would include money allocated for wages -- the state would return everyone to full pay and issue checks for the withheld wages.

A few readers have called and e-mailed asking us to mention that there are state employees who wouldn't even get minimum wage in that scenario -- doctors and attorneys.

The Federal Labor Standards Act exempts those job classifications from any minimum salary requirement, so the state would withhold the pay of 5,000 state lawyers, administrative law judges, physicians, podiatrists, dentists and others in bargaining units 2 and 16.

Another often-overlooked group: managers, supervisors and others who don't get paid for working more than 40 hours per week. Under federal law, they'd get $455 per week until a budget deal got done.

You can read more about how a delayed budget could impact paychecks by clicking here to open DPA's Web page on the topic. The page hasn't been updated since August 2008, however, so the minimum pay details aren't current.


January 25, 2010
Schwarzenegger order prompts 'workforce cap plan' memo

The Department of Finance sent out a budget letter to departments on Friday, giving them until Monday of next week to submit plans to wring another 5 percent in salary savings for fiscal 2010-11. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger mandated the cost cuts with his Jan. 8 Executive Order S-01-10.

"These reductions can be achieved through abolishing vacancies, attrition, and layoffs," the budget letter says. Click here to read it.

January 21, 2010
Karen Bass: Pensions and more should be 'on the table'

Fox Business talk-show host Stuart Varney grilled Assembly Speaker Karen Bass today about California's budget crisis and pressed her about the push for more federal money, spending and pensions.

Here are some bits of the interview, which you can view by clicking the video link above, that State Worker blog users will find particularly interesting:

STUART VARNEY: When you get back to California you need to come up with a plan that somehow fixes this deficit. I will ask clearly are you in favor of any pay freeze for state employees? Are you in favor of looking at the pensions California is currently paying its former government workers? (talking over each other)

VARNEY: You have got to get at this.


VARNEY: Are you in favor of a pay freeze? Are you in favor of doing something about those lavish pensions? Are you in favor of lifting environmental rules and regulations which are killing business?

BASS: I think we have to put everything on the table. Over the last couple of years we've had a deficit totaling 60 billion dollars. ... Everything has to be on the table.

VARNEY: On the table?

BASS: That's right.

VARNEY: On the table. When we say on the table I am talking about a serious interruption of the flow of money to your pensions for state government pensions. Are you prepared to counter that? Because frankly you are in such a hole that you have to take truly drastic action over and above what you've taken already.

BASS: And let me tell you, we have absolutely taken drastic action and we are going to continue...

VARNEY: Ms. Bass, I am going to ask you a fundamental question. Are you prepared to change course? Change policy course away from much more spending and away from higher taxes and get to much lower taxes and cutting spending? Are you prepared to change direction?

BASS: We are absolutely prepared. As a matter fact, in the next couple weeks you will see we are going to roll out a comprehensive reform package stay tuned. I think you'll see big differences.

January 15, 2010
Is California's budget crisis overblown?

The Wall Street Journal's Bret Arends wrote a counterintuitive piece this week that puts California's financial struggles in a bit of a different context.

After acknowledging the state's budget trouble, job losses and housing market collapse, Arends argues that California bonds remain a solid investment, despite doomsday predictions in some quarters that the Golden State is on the verge of becoming a failed state:

I think fears about California's fiscal stability are greatly overdone. A lot of this commentary is really political rather than economic. When someone warns you that "California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downwards, driven by a huge budget deficit," you have to figure it's more about "San Francisco values" than Sacramento economics.

California's latest budget shortfall, $20 billion over the next 18 months, looks a lot less intimidating when compared to the $1.9 trillion state economy. So too does the size of the state's general obligation debts: Standard & Poor's says there are $64 billion in Californian general obligation bonds -- those backed by the state's tax power -- outstanding.

A bit later, Arends says,

Ultimately, of course, the health of a state government will hinge on the performance of the state economy. There, too, talk of California as a "failed state" is misleading. Yes, California has been hit hard by the latest crisis and its economic performance last year was dismal, probably worse than in many other states. But the longer-term picture is one of the success, not failure. Between 1998 and 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, California's economy grew by 25% per person in real, inflation-adjusted terms. The U.S. average: 16%.

California, in fact, did better than all but a handful of states. It did far better than the Rocky Mountain states, the Southwest, the Great Plains states, and the South. California did far better than Texas or Alaska -- during an oil boom. And California achieved this faster growth even though it started from a higher level. It has, and maintains, one of the highest standards of living in America.

After noting that "hundreds of billions of dollars" of Californians' federal taxes have subsidized less-wealthy states for decades, Arends says,

That would be enough to pay the entire Sacramento state budget for years. Failed state? They should declare independence.

Click here to read the entire WSJ piece.

January 12, 2010
LAO releases budget analysis

Money stack.jpgThe Legislative Analyst's Office has released its overview of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2010-11 budget proposal. You can download it by clicking here.

Click on the following link for some items of interest to state workers in the LAO report.

December 29, 2009
State Worker blog poll: How many furlough days in next budget?

December 15, 2009
Yuba City developmental center closing this week

091214 Sierra Vista.jpgSierra Vista Developmental Center in Yuba City will go dark on Friday. The facility has been drawing down clients and staff since the Department of Developmental Services announced the planned closure last summer, as The State Worker told you in this June report.

The facility served 50 clients and employed 51 staff represented by the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians and about 130 total.

The clients are with other facilities. CAPT says in this this press release release.doc that although some of its members have found other state jobs, "... positions are difficult to find as many state vacancies have been cut and hiring freezes are in effect."

IMAGE: Department of Developmental Services