Gov. Brown’s Revised Budget Calls For Longer, But Fewer Workdays

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Gov. Brown’s Revised Budget Calls For Longer, But Fewer Workdays

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal wants to revamp the way the state does business by keeping offices and agencies open longer to serve the public outside of normal business hours, but would save 5% on salaries by cutting workers overall hours. This change is expected to save the state nearly $840 million, including $400 million for the general fund, if it’s implemented.

The proposal is also expected to save on the cost of operating state buildings as some agencies are expected to move to a four-day workweek. “What the public may see in some cases will be extended work hours. So greater services outside of the traditional 8 to 5, but we may be closed on Fridays,” says finance director Ana Matosantos. “So we may be open 7 to 7 four days a week instead of 8 to 5 five days a week.”

The additional cuts being proposed are in response to the state’s higher than expected costs and lower than expected revenues. The budget deficit is now estimated at $15.7 billion, compared to the $9.2 billion in Brown’s original budget proposal. Overall, the revised budget proposes an additional $4.1 billion in spending cuts for a total of $8.3 billion.

Matosantos says no exemptions are contemplated for the 5% reduction for state workers, but past cutbacks and furloughs have not always been applied evenly across the board. Additionally, any changes would have to be approved by the legislature and/or gained through negotiations with the labor unions, according to the administration.

The State Compensation Insurance Fund declined to comment on the proposal, saying it’s premature to say what if any impact it will have on its workforce. “There’s nothing specifically laid out to respond to,” says spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger initially applied his furlough plan to workers at the State Fund, but the courts later exempted the workers at the quasi-governmental agency from the cutbacks. The courts found that the carrier’s staffing decisions are to be made by State Fund’s board of directors and cannot be altered by an executive order from the Governor. State Fund employees’ salaries are paid through employer premiums and do not come out of the state budget.

Salaries for workers at the Division of Workers’ Compensation, Cal/OSHA and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board are similarly funded by user assessments on employers. Past cutbacks, however, have been applied at these agencies. Department of Industrial Relations officials said they had been given no advance notice of the governor’s proposal and would be working through the information from the Department of Finance. Beyond the potential staffing initiative, however, there did not appear to be any other changes directly impacting DIR.

Similarly, officials at the California Department of Insurance noted that it’s still early in the process and they plan to monitor the negotiations closely. “Since it’s a statewide proposal we are presuming it could impact us,” says deputy press secretary Pat McConahay. “We’ll just have to watch to see what the labor organization will do at the [negotiating] table.”

Brown indicated that he intends to achieve the cuts through negotiations with the unions representing state workers. Stay tuned.

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