Brown proposes 4-day week for state workers
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Posted by Camelot on 2012-05-15 12:42:13
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed significant cuts to state courts and state worker pay - including reducing state employees' workweek to four days - to help close a $15.7 billion gap between revenue and expenses for California's fiscal year that begins July 1.
In announcing his revised budget proposal, which he called both "difficult" and "real, increased austerity," the governor also pressed his case for voters to approve a tax initiative that he is pushing in the November election.
The governor's plan already counts the revenue the tax initiative would bring in - and if voters reject the taxes, then even deeper cuts would be required, Brown said. Those would include midyear cuts to public schools, community colleges and the University of California and California State University systems.
Brown spoke at the Capitol and immediately flew to Los Angeles, where he also made his case for his $91 billion general-fund spending plan. The general fund pays for most state services.
"I said at the beginning when I ran for this job that it's taken a long time, more than a decade, to get into this mess. We're not going to get out of it in a year, or even two years. But we're getting there. We're making progress," Brown said.
Overall, the budget plan relies on $8.3 billion in spending reductions and other cuts, nearly $6 billion from the taxes that would be collected if the November ballot measure passes, and $2.5 billion in "other" solutions including putting off the repayment of some loans.
Deficit despite taxes
But even while counting on the increase in taxes, which is far from certain to pass, the governor projects the state will have a $7.7 billion deficit in two years. Still, Brown said the state's chronic deficits will remain a top issue for him.
"I think you can be confident that before I leave here we will be in solid fiscal balance and we can look forward to a very stable future," he said.
The bulk of the cuts, nearly $2.5 billion, come from health services and welfare, which Democrats in the Legislature have opposed. The federal government and courts also have already blocked similar reductions in services, but it appears the governor is going to try again to get approval on those, including In-Home Supportive Services and co-payments for Medi-Cal.
The proposal seeks to make reductions in what the state pays to hospitals and nursing homes for treating the poor, along with adding limits on who qualifies for welfare. The $879 million proposed cut to CalWORKS, the state's welfare to work program, is actually smaller than what the governor first proposed in January, but Democrats have said the reduction would lead to homelessness and that they oppose it.
"There is of course a balance between making necessary cuts, which we will do, and maintaining and preserving essential services for people, especially people most in need," said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
June 15 deadline
Brown said he expects the budget negotiations, which must conclude by the June 15 deadline, will be "difficult," and Steinberg agreed.
The largest and newest pieces of the revised plan include taking $1.4 billion that was left from the dismantling of the state's redevelopment agencies and using it for the general fund. Steinberg and others had initially wanted that money to help create affordable housing.
Brown also has proposed a $544 million cut to the courts, whose funding has been reduced significantly in recent years. That money would come from the reserves of local courts, along with delaying construction of new courthouses.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye criticized the plan, saying, "The proposed cuts to the judicial branch are both devastating and disheartening. They will seriously compromise the public's access to their courts and our ability to provide equal access to justice throughout the state."
She said she would hold an emergency meeting with leaders in the court system this week to address the plan.
Another new element of the budget would take $292 million in proceeds from the state's mortgage settlement with major banks - funds that were slated to pay for existing programs that assist homeowners. Attorney General Kamala Harris objected to that proposal. Brown would use that money to plug the deficit.
"While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap, these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes," Harris said.
State worker pay cuts
The final major new piece is a $400 million reduction in state worker pay, which Brown proposed achieving by shortening the workweek for state workers from five to four days. He said state employees would work longer hours on those four days for a total of 38 hours per week. State offices would stay open longer on those days as well.
Union officials representing state workers actually proposed the plan to the governor and said it is the best of the bad options.
"Nobody is OK with less pay, but what they're also not OK with is the constant uncertainty of 'Do I have a job or not? Is this going to mean layoffs or not?' " said Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, California's largest state employee union.
Brown said he would negotiate with unions to make the changes, which he said would apply to all state workers, including those in public safety agencies such as Cal Fire and the California Highway Patrol.
Looming in the budget negotiations are so-called "trigger cuts," or automatic spending reductions that would take place if the governor's tax measure is rejected by voters. His measure would raise the income tax on the state's top earners and the sales tax for everyone.
Brown has called for just over $6 billion in those types of cuts, with nearly all of it - $5.5 billion - coming from K-12 education and community colleges. The UC and CSU systems would each take a midyear cut of $250 million.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said the impact, roughly $300 million, on the schools he oversees would be a "breaking point" for some community colleges.
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