California

No-One Dast Blame This Government Employee

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No, it's not Pilates, it's the DMV.

The Sacramento Bee's Jon Ortiz evokes the plight of California state workers:

Their boss routinely blasts their job security. They've endured a 15 percent cut in hours and pay, and now their employer wants them to kick in more for their benefits. The state budget situation is so bad that their next boss – whoever that is – will have to consider laying them off.

It's not exactly what Vincent Johnston envisioned when he signed up for state service.

"I took a pay cut to work for the state because of the certainty," said Johnston, a 27-year-old employee at the Board of Accountancy, who acknowledges things are no picnic in the private sector. "But now what I see is uncertainty – a lot of it."

Welcome to the human race, Vincent.

Right now, Sacramento is both haggling over a budget with a $19 billion shortfall and negotiating with public sector unions over a new contract. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not-so-secretly using employee furloughs and other personnel tactics to lever the repeal of SB 400—a 1999 California law that boosted retirement benefits for government employees, switched to a more generous average monthly retirement compensation formula, and provided a cost of living retirement allowance increase for pre-1999 retirees. Ortiz quotes Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a retired UCLA management professor, speculating that unions are waiting for the California supreme court to rule on more than 40 furlough-related lawsuits against the governor.

Arguments in that case will be heard tomorrow, and the remaining no-contract unions—which include the Service Employees International Union and represent 163,000 public employees—are taking a risky approach to negotiations. If Jerry Brown (for whom the workers quoted by Ortiz have no kind words) surges in the fall, SEIU could leverage its own position against Schwarzenegger or just wait to sign contracts with a more friendly governor. If Meg Whitman extends her lead against Brown, the unions could be in the position of rejecting one offer from Schwarzenegger only to face a worse one from Whitman.

At that point, furloughs might no longer be an issue. Brown and Whitman both favor layoffs over furloughs during budget crunches, and Whitman promises "to permanently reduce the number of state workers back to the same level we had just five years ago."

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  1. Death and taxes, Vincent, death and taxes.

  2. “I took a pay cut to work for the state because of the certainty,” said Johnston, a 27-year-old employee at the Board of Accountancy, who acknowledges things are no picnic in the private sector. “But now what I see is uncertainty ? a lot of it.”

    Welcome to the human race, Vincent.

    Speak for yourself. He can stay with the rodent species AFAIC.

    1. He took a pay cut?!? Unless he’s not an accountant (at the board of accountancy) and is one of the few professions where the private sector still pays better than the public, he didn’t take a pay cut at all.

      And let’s not even get into “pay cut” and “overall compensation”.

      1. Being a gov’t employee = Constitutionally-guaranteed handout, apparently.

      2. This really depends on the individual. Some people can make more in the private sector and some can’t, depending on profession, credentials, experience, etc. The government overcompensates some (especially lesser skilled workers) and undercompensate others (mostly professionals like lawyers and doctors and senior managers). I’m leaving government shortly and, including benefits, will be getting a pay raise of nearly 50%.

        1. Sorry, but if people are making a living at the expense of we, the taxpayers… none of them should be making more than anyone in the private sector.

          1. That’s a recipe for some pretty crappy government. And it won’t be for some less intrusive, but crappy, government. It will probably be even more intrusive (lots of trust fund busy bodies) and be really crappy.

            1. the crappier the better. It’s bad enough already, all we can hope for is to hasten is shrinkage…

              1. Really? You want crappy prosecutors who can’t get convictions of guilty criminals? Bad military officers that get soldiers killed? Stupid police officers that shoot dogs for no reason and abuse their power? Bad teachers that ignore their students? Poor road and transportation infrastructure planners that can’t get roads repaired or designed right?

                1. At the risk of feeding a troll….

                  We have each and every one of those things now.

                  1. And don’t you think that one reason for that is poor compensation incentives for public employees? That is, top managers and professionals can get paid much more in the private sector, so government rarely gets them. The lock-step pay systems provide little incentive to perform. The job security and defined-benefit pension in a government job tends to bring in people who want security instead of competition and innovation and drives out people who want to do something difficult and worthwhile (and not work with a bunch of good-for-nothings).

                    I’m quite critical of the current public employee compensation systems, but putting every public employee on minimum wage is downright stupid. It will drive out the few good people that are left and bring in more even worse ones who can’t get any other job.

                    1. I did not suggest minimum wage for gov’t paper-pushers, adam… just more-realistic pay. As in “not twice the national private-sector average”.

                    2. You wrote above: “Sorry, but if people are making a living at the expense of we, the taxpayers… none of them should be making more than anyone in the private sector.”

                      The lowest (legal) wage in the private sector is minimum wage. If you didn’t mean that all government employees should earn minimum wage, then why did you write that?

                      Even if you meant no government employee should make more than the national private-sector average, that’s still an damn stupid idea. While there are too many useless government employees, there are plenty of government employees that do really important jobs. Having a dumb pay cap like that will just ensure we have stupid incompentent people doing those really important jobs that have big effects on all us. You remind me of many liberals with your knee-jerk policy prescriptions.

                    3. The lock-step pay systems provide little incentive to perform. The job security and defined-benefit pension in a government job tends to bring in people who want security instead of competition and innovation and drives out people who want to do something difficult and worthwhile (and not work with a bunch of good-for-nothings).

                      Agreed. We have the worst of both worlds – overcompensated and unaccountable. Elimination of the second helps to equalize the first.

                      Unfortunately, as difficult as it would prove to limit compensation and benefits, it would be impossible to implement accountability into government without a substantial reduction in the size of the bureaucracy.

                      The system must collapse for any meaningful change to occur.

          2. Does that include the wino I saw lying in the gutter the other day?

            1. I was resting.

  3. I approve of the alt-text.

    1. “The Royalist’s Purple Shirts show up to protest the Presidency.”

  4. In other California news,

    “I wish I could ask Reggie to come talk to our football team. I can’t. He’s not allowed on the campus,” Haden says

  5. Whitman promises “to permanently reduce the number of state workers back to the same level we had just five years ago.”

    Can someone quantify her promise?

    She can submit a budget but it has to pass the Legislative… and that won’t happen w/ deep cuts. The kick-the-can budget trickery that Virginia’s governor and legislators agreed to was to underfund the state employee pension fund, i.e. make promises you can’t keep.

    1. A week or so ago John and Ken on KFI 640 AM focused on this promise of hers. Their reading of what she’s proposing is that the reductions would be achieved through the normal cycling out of retiring employees, coupled with a lower rate of acquiring new employees, NOT layoffs. So it would seemingly take decades, which would be, like, a million years too late.

  6. Yeah, whenever I here this kind of moaning, I think of this chart. Poor guys ;_;

    1. Cain’t spell today.

      1. You spelled today perfectly.

        And yes, the whining from those who cannot be fired without a Papal edict is heartrending.

  7. California Threadjack: Environmental School named after Al Gore built on contaminated site.

    1. On the bright side, the Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences gets discount rates on light industrial chemicals for its science lab!

      1. Not to mention they can give their students hands-on experience cleaning up a Superfund site…

        1. So the site matches the ideology. Perfect.

  8. The Republicans are so funny, when the economy is good you say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. When most Americans (with Latin America roots) go to the polls this November we will remember that the GOP has gone on a nationwide rant in proposing and passing several anti-immigration legislation (that our US Courts continue to strike down) and have continue to blame the immigrant for the flat economy or worse. We will remember who stands with us and who stands against us, so trying to stop it now is somewhat funny, but go ahead, you will not change our minds. Plus the more radical of the GOP are now attacking our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, in a misguided attempt to garner some much needed votes, they really are fools, and leading the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits. Your hate made you do it, in November; you will reap what you have sown. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would say about todays GOP, he unlike the current GOP was a man of ideas.

    1. I didn’t know Mussolini liked illegals.

    2. “when the economy is good you say . . .”

      Ummm, what do you mean by “you,” kemosabe?

      Take your bone-headed rants to freerepublic.

      1. Exactly. Benito, tu no sabes d?nde est?s. Intentas de nuevo…

    3. So US voters of Latin American heritage are universally in favor of illegal immigration? Really?

      1. Of course. Everyone of South American descent is on the same page!

        And, most important – if there’s one thing immigrants from Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras love, it’s Mexicans!

        I mean, who can forget such great migratory treatment?

  9. Of course, the Democrats would like to make this a country to which no one will want to immigrate, so keep that in mind.

  10. Just a question, did everyone get the Death of a Salesman reference in the title of this article…just askin’

    1. I got the Welcome to the human race Snake Plissken reference.

  11. The most outrageous racial profile law was AZ SB1070, the one that failed in our US Courts that the proponents claimed was Constitutional. The current GOP wants to decide for you when they will apply the Constitution in the bent minds. Considering that all the numbers of crime are down (even ex-governor Janet Napolitano agrees).

    So we have Brewer signing a bill (that she probably did not even read), lying about the crime rates in AZ, and now we find out that she is in the pockets of PRIVATE PRISONS who stand to benefit with the increase Federal jailing.

    So quit lying, with your pathelic rhetoric, stand up and be men, no, no I am sorry your leaders are now just Birthers, Baggers and Blowhards and will contine to take the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits. Good bye, fawell?.

    1. Okay, dumbass, since you need it spelled out for you: we are not REPUBLICANS, we are LIBERTARIANS. And farewell to you…

    2. What’s wrong with pathelic rhetoric, Paco?

  12. “I took a pay cut to work for the state because of the certainty”

    That’s pretty damned unlikely, when benefits and pension are figured in.

    But if he’s comfortable working for less, then by all means, let us pay him less than the private sector would.

    1. Well, he’s probably just excluding benefits.

      Remember, this is government accounting. None of that fancy-schmancy GAAP crap.

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