Public employee unions spent $30 million to give Jerry Brown a third term. While I didn’t vote for him, as a Californian, I hoped he would help fix the state by standing up to the public employee unions who own Sacramento. If Nixon could go to China, maybe Jerry Brown — at this stage of his life — would stand up to the unions.
Unfortunately, instead of confronting public employee unions, he’s now confirming our worst fears by paying them back for their support with our tax dollars.
In his January budget, Gov. Brown said that he would save $308 million by negotiating concessions from unions. While anything to cut bloated state worker salaries is good in my book, $308 million is just the starting point to close California’s $26.6 billion deficit.
At the time he made his budget proposal, the governor estimated that he would achieve savings through “a 10 percent reduction in take-home pay for the six bargaining units without contracts (with the state).” He said this would be realized through “collective bargaining or other administrative actions.”
But the real savings are far less than he promised. Worse, California Labor Federation President Art Pulaski was reportedly meeting in the governor’s office recently to “talk strategy with administration staff.”
Let’s take a closer look at what the Brown administration actually negotiated. The administration recently reached agreement on a new contract with Bargaining Unit No. 2, representing lawyers, administrative law judges and hearing officers.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, state worker furloughs will save $9.4 million in the 2010-11 budget year for this unit. But these savings were set in motion by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ordered three unpaid furlough days each month. In contrast, the Brown administration’s contract would save just $3.6 million for 2011-12, far less than the furloughs.
If this contract is any indication, the state will save nowhere near the $308 million the governor estimates. The administration assumed that the new agreements for the six bargaining units would reduce state worker pay by an average of 10 percent. But the agreement with members of Bargaining Unit No. 2 cuts their pay just 3.5 percent.
If the agreements reached by the Brown administration with the other unions are similar —- and save approximately 35 percent of the original estimate —- then we will save only $108 million, $200 million less than originally projected.
In these tough times, everyone must sacrifice. Private-sector workers have already had to endure salary and benefit cuts, while paying more for health care and retirement. At a time when education and other vital services are on the chopping block, state workers must sacrifice, too.
State workers should not benefit more because taxpayers sign their paychecks. Jerry Brown should remember that he works for the taxpayers, not the public employee unions.