Relief for government, not taxpayers

Commentary

By STEVEN GREENHUT

A state appeals court this afternoon upheld Alameda Superior Court Judge Steven Brick’s halting of the governor’s furlough program for state employees. The state has a massive budget problem, yet apparently it’s just too awful to force the state’s padded and overpaid workforce to take an unpaid vacation day on Fridays.

This is from Brick’s ruling:

“Petitioners have also made a sufficient showing of great or irreparable harm to at least some of their members through the thirty plus declarations submitted with the applications. The verified petitions allege such harm to all of their members. Examples of the types of great or irreparable harm that have been submitted include being members put in desperate financial circumstances by additional furloughs because the previous furlough orders have depleted savings and retirement accounts already; homes have been lost or are at risk of being lost because of inability to keep current on mortgages; credit scores have declined because of inability to pay bills, rendering it difficult or impossible to obtain further credit; members have been rendered unable to afford food for an adequate diet for themselves and their families or to buy necessary medicines. The stress and emotional strain of further furlough deductions amounting to a 14-15% pay cut can never be fully measured or adequately compensated, even if Petitioners win on the merits and are awarded back pay after the long delay inherent in litigation of this type.”

That’s quite a legal standard. Public employees who earn more than the average member of the public and have far greater benefits and pensions than the public will perhaps suffer irreparable harm from having a slight cutback in their pay! This also is causing emotional stress.

Heaven help us. What about the emotional stress of average taxpayers, and private sector workers, who are going through tough times as businesses shed payrolls and shut down. Of course, that emotional stress doesn’t count. Never mind that the state continues to run a deficit. Something has to be done. A recent LAO report found that just in one agency, Caltrans, there’s little to do and many hundreds of unnecessary workers. In tough times, the private sector sheds its excess workforce. But the state’s coddled class of government workers doesn’t have to share the burden, at least not according to this judge.

An excellent editorial in the Tri-Valley News (East Bay) explains the wisdom of the governor’s furloughs:

“Because the Legislature has failed to pass a budget on time, the state is running out of money and needs to find ways to cut back on spending. Furloughs are a proper means of achieving that goal. The furlough program for general fund employees ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would save $80 million per month. His non-general fund employee furloughs would save another $30 million a month.

“The court did accept the fiscal realities facing California and that the state may have to issue warrants to pay its bills and to preserve its ability to borrow money. The court also acknowledged the appropriateness of using furloughs to help the state ease its fiscal problems.”

The judge’s ruling is ludicrous. Are we really supposed to believe that state employees are going to bed hungry at night because of the furloughs, as he argued? And the idea that they are tapping their retirement accounts to survive is bizarre given that state employees have defined benefit pension plans — many of them will soon be members of the $100,000 a year pension club.

So all the pain and suffering comes out of the hide of the private sector. What else is new?

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  1. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 12 August, 2010, 15:16

    Slash state employees pay! Or better yet, throw them out of work! Steve, your hatred of public employees is unbelievable. Aren’t they taxpayers too?

    Reply this comment
  2. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 12 August, 2010, 15:26

    I don’t hate them. But government is too big and the public employee unions have gained out-sized pay and benefit packages. Government should be reduced and the size of the government workforce should be reduced. Yes, public employees are taxpayers, but you know about the theory of dispersed costs and concentrated benefits. And, yes, I also like your idea of slashing state employee pay. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  3. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 12 August, 2010, 15:45

    Gee, Steve, I’m sure glad you only want to slash their pay and throw them out of work. What would you propose if you really did hate them: The firing squad?

    Reply this comment
  4. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 12 August, 2010, 15:57

    Oh come on, Steve, it is not hatred to want to reduce government to a less-intrusive and expensive size. The basic purpose of the American experiment was to keep government limited. I wish government employees the best of success in the private sector. You and I might agree on some foreign policy issues. If we believe that the military should be smaller and be involved in fewer overseas endeavors, that doesn’t mean we hate the troops. Or have you gone Republican on me?

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  5. GaryfromRedding
    GaryfromRedding 13 August, 2010, 07:11

    Mr. Greenhut, The furloughs this time around are being used as a wedge to get Bargaining Units to accept DPA’s contract offers. If it were truly about the dollar, then the furloughs would be implemented unilaterally to every department. It is by no coincidence that the bargaining units unaffected just happen to be those that have accepted DPA’s concessions. CDCR has a 24/7 staffing package, they are under Federal mandates to run certain programs and expedite all health care services. The build up of surplus furlough time is causing a buildup of vacation and sick time, which in the end will cost the state ten fold what they say they are saving. I do agree that a 5% pay cut to all state employees, yes even CHP, would not be detrimental to anyone and would save the state millions. But in the same token, while state employees are taking a hit, the same should also be applied to all welfare cases and social programs. The state employees are not the bad guys here, our Democratic controlled Legislature has a spending problem and must be curbed or California will fail!

    Reply this comment
  6. John Seiler
    John Seiler 13 August, 2010, 18:18

    StevefromSacto seems to be living on another planet. The reality is that the whole government system is breaking down, in California and the rest of America. The cuts are just beginning. The government is bankrupt. Businesses are bankrupt. Taxpayers are bankrupt. Tax increases only would make matters worse.

    This is like what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991, when their bloated military-socialist empire collapsed — also triggered by losing a war in Afghanistan. Within the next few years, government in America will be cut 30%. There is no alternative. There is no more money.

    Reply this comment
  7. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 17 August, 2010, 10:03

    John, are you off your meds again? We’re less than two years out from the Bush administration and the sky is falling?
    I don’t think so.

    I imagine that your ideological brethren were saying the same thing back in 1935 when, in the midst of the Great Depression, Social Security was created. Somehow we made it to 1940 and beyond. Same will happen this time.

    And Steve, we probably do agree on some foreign policy issues. And I am more than willing to cut unnecessary programs–like farm subsidies to agri-business, tax breaks for oil companies, etc. But I do not agree in the right-wing philosophy of cutting programs from the bottom up…in other words starting with those who are the weakest and poorest and need government the most.

    Reply this comment
  8. Tough Love
    Tough Love 17 August, 2010, 10:09

    Quoting …”A state appeals court this afternoon upheld Alameda Superior Court Judge Steven Brick’s halting of the governor’s furlough program for state employees. The state has a massive budget problem, yet apparently it’s just too awful to force the state’s padded and overpaid workforce to take an unpaid vacation day on Fridays. ….. That’s quite a legal standard. Public employees who earn more than the average member of the public and have far greater benefits and pensions than the public will perhaps suffer irreparable harm from having a slight cutback in their pay! This also is causing emotional stress.”

    This judge is showing an extreme lack of common sense:

    WHAT make Civil Servants so “special” ??????

    Reply this comment
  9. Tough Love
    Tough Love 17 August, 2010, 10:13

    Until recently, I strongly advocated for reducing pension formulas for FUTURE years of service for CURRENT (as well as new) workers …… a VERY unpopular position in the eyes of those riding the Civil Servant gravy train.

    I now believe the likelihood of this happening (soon enough and with sufficient formula reductions) is so low that a much better direction, and perhaps the ONLY way to avoid the financial disaster bearing down on communities throughout the nation is to OUTSOURCE 90+%of all Civil Servant positions.

    The CRITICAL CRITICAL CRITICAL need is to STOP the further growth of the pension liability from the excessive pension formulas granted EXISTING employees, and the ONLY way to do this quickly and VERY effectively is OUTSOURCING.

    And guess what … it’s ALREADY been tested … and the sky didn’t fall in … and the residents of Maywood, CA seem very pleased with the results of outsourcing 100% of their employees. Read all about it here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/business/20maywood.html?pagewanted=2

    Reply this comment
  10. Fake OCO
    Fake OCO 17 August, 2010, 11:31

    Steve (Greenhut) nailed it.

    Steve from sactown, you are just parroting the same thing you always have-and refuse to see relaity. Most likely b/c you’re a public employee

    Reply this comment
  11. Fake OCO
    Fake OCO 17 August, 2010, 11:34

    John Seiler says:
    August 13, 2010 at 6:18 pm
    StevefromSacto seems to be living on another planet.
    ==============
    Stevefromsactown is currently residing in Anaheim, CA.

    In a place called “Fantasyland”.

    Reply this comment
  12. Tough Love
    Tough Love 17 August, 2010, 11:41

    Quoting Garyfrom Redding …”The state employees are not the bad guys here”

    Yes they are … if not by pay alone, then DEFINITELY via their oversized pensions and benefits. You see, at EVERY(yes EVERY) pay level, the taxpayer paid-for share of Civil Servants’ pensions and retiree healthcare is 2-4 times (6 times for safety workers) greater than that of the employer paid-for share of the pensions & retiree healthcare benefits of comparably paid Private sector workers with the SAME years of service and the SAME age at retirement.

    And you thisk this is fair … when taxpayers pay for 80-90% of it ?

    Sorry, but it’s NOT …. and were gonna change it…. pronto.

    Reply this comment
  13. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 17 August, 2010, 18:07

    Hey, Steve, one more time. I am NOT a public employee. Not everyone in the private sector is a slave to the destroy government ideology.

    And John, I’m sorry you’ve sunk to name-calling. Thought you had more sense than that. Apparently, however you live in a place where you have no need for public services. Must be nice.

    Reply this comment
  14. Tough Love
    Tough Love 18 August, 2010, 04:37

    Dear Stevefromsacto …. YOU may not be a “public employee”, but it sounds very likely your extreme support is more than just altruism.

    I’ll bet there’s a benefit somewhere for you or your family from a continuation of the EXCESSIVE pay, pensions, and benefits, Civil Servants NOW get away with.

    Hopefully, we’ll succeed in changing that real soon. If I were you, I wouldn’t count on it being there for the long haul.

    Reply this comment
  15. Capt Renault
    Capt Renault 18 August, 2010, 09:48

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    Only government jobs count. Government jobs are union jobs. Union jobs pay union dues. Union dues fund political campaigns. Only government jobs count.

    “Four legs good. Two legs better.”

    Reply this comment
  16. Generoyb
    Generoyb 18 August, 2010, 09:52

    How fortunate we tax payers are. As private citizens we are not faced with the the posibility of having our wages reduced by 15% or losing our jobs entirely due to government spending.

    I really sympathize with those who are basically on the public dole and understand the horrible stress they must incure.

    Reply this comment

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