State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is trying to land a one-two punch on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three-day-a-month furloughs of state employees.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Ken Jacobs, chairman of the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, will hold a news conference tomorrow at the State Capitol to release a study on “The High Cost of Furloughs,” which shows the governor’s three-day-a-month furlough program saves less than anticipated, offset by less revenue and higher costs in future years, while dragging down the Sacramento region’s already struggling economy.
Earlier today, Steinberg rolled out a different study from the nonpartisan state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes which found furlough savings aren’t being realized for at least a third of the roughly 100,000 state employees paid from the general fund with round-the-clock jobs; the furlough policy is just pushing labor costs to future years while adding more costs.
“This report is further confirmation that the administration’s furlough program was poorly thought out and will not deliver long-term savings for the general fund,” Steinberg said of this study. “In round-the-clock operations like prisons and state developmental centers, the furlough program is not reducing hours over the long-term, it is simply deferring paychecks.”
“Furloughs in Round-the-Clock Operations: Savings are Illusory,” analyzed payroll data from the State Controller’s Office and interviews with top prison, developmental services and mental health officials. Among the findings Steinberg is touting:
In round-the-clock institutions, employees in positions that must be filled day and night generally aren’t taking off three days per month; while absorbing the 14 percent reduction in pay, they’re working the “furlough” days and banking time to be taken off later on. In the prisons, which employ 70 percent of all state workers paid by the general fund, officials say the long-term cost of furloughs is greater than the savings; corrections officials say they were told by the administration that short-term payroll savings are more important than future liabilities. Correctional workers banked 1.5 million furlough hours between February and August this year; most are correctional officers, and at $34.91 an hour, that’s a future liability of at least $52 million.
When correctional officers do take time off, they generally use furlough days instead of vacation days, so from February through August, the number of unused vacation days accrued by correctional officers jumped 500 percent – a potential boondoggle for future prison staffing, and costlier because many workers will be at a higher pay rate when they finally do use their vacation time.
Furloughs fail to save the $108 million projected by the administration in the prison healthcare system, according to the court-appointed receivership now that system; the costs of paying overtime and hiring private workers to fill in for furloughed workers will exceed any savings. In fact, the court-appointed receiver says furloughs are projected to increase costs within the prison health care system by $37 million to $47 million this year.
Similar bankings of furlough and vacation time are happening in California’s dozen mental hospitals and developmental centers, creating the same kinds of future liabilities.