Steinberg seeks a one-two punch on furloughs

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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.


  1. The simple truth is that the administration wanted to simply cut the salaries of people by 14% and did not have the where-with-all to do it straight out.

  2. This State Senate study and the Governor’s Office response to reports that the other Constitutional officers were successful in achieving the same savings without furloughs or layoffs can only be interpreted one way: The Governor is interested in needlessly hurting State employees. Why he is doing this is another question, but it’s obviously not about saving money or improving efficiency or any other reason he’s given. Remember that he said last summer that he didn’t care that he was hurting poor people, children or seniors with his budget cuts; he even sent Steinberg those metal testicles with a note urging the Senate chief to show some spine in cutting off these vulnerable constituents. He groped women’s breasts in Hollywood. He’s a crude, boorish and ugly man.

  3. @Eric

    When the State lays off workers, it is required by law to do so according to senority. I.e., the lowest on the totem pole are the first to go. Given the way public service salaries work, you are basically advocating firing 10% of the lowest-paid, generally youngest, and least “burned out” State workers. Good job.

  4. Both comments are quite correct indeed, even if they were focused on a more negative inflection. All the governor really wanted to do was punish the labor union for opposing him in his last special election. Of course, he took the opportunity to get even with all unions for embarrassing him in his first special election! All at the cost of Californians everywhere!!!
    Why yo ask? He doesn’t give one iota about the people, it’s all about Arnold Schwarzenegger, always has been, always will be.

    The part about laying off 10,000 workers, as long as it’s based on cash flow and not vendetta, it’s time proven to have always been the most effective model. This bull of lowering everyone’s wage to save the new talent only costs the top end talent in the long run. How stupid id that?

    In government, it’s cumbersome to be sure, but it’s doable! But before all that, let’s account for where all the money is going – you can bet Arnie is hiding a lot of corruption withuin his administration from the tax payers. In a word, he is a LIAR!

  5. This is all a function of the refusal to cut actual programs and services and then have the natural staff reductions that come with that. Instead we have blanket furloughs that don’t address the real problems. Why not actually cut what needs to be cut, do the layoffs and let the rest of the workforce and the local economies that depend on them get on with their lives? EVERY state worker is suffering because the legislature refuses to do real cuts – that’s why we do a new budget every 3 months. It’s also both sides; for republicans to scream for cuts and then not be willing to cut their programs – especially corrections – is hypocritical at best. It’s time to cut and cut specific stuff instead of punishing everyone.

  6. BTW, this furlough report is bogus. The UC Labor Institute is supported on the backs of 6,000 undergraduates who had to pay $650 more fees…because Steinberg, Bass and Jerry “forced” the UC Board to “increase” their budget for the Institute. So, everyone else get cut, lose jobs and more taxes (fees) while the UNIONS get propaganda pieces to support furlough’s as expensive…written by former newspaper reporters…instead of making govt. more efficient, the unions (and their drones) continue to give outrageous pensions, hire more bureaucrats and use taxpayer’s dollars to produce junk economics as this report today…all to protect their isolated status quo. More at http://www.hoguenews.com later today with a written piece on this scam – as well as CalPERS scandal of the day.

  7. @ Eric

    You make some very strong accusations indeed. Can you give some very specific examples rather than just more mindless Rush Limbaugh type hype that you believe?

    There are a lot of problems affecting a lot of REAL people in this environment and I for one would like to be proactive in solving as many as we can, but that won’t happen with painting the scene with such a broad brush!

    If an LA fireman is caught stealing, does that make all fireman thieves? If a teacher is caught having a relationship with a student, are all teachers child molesters? If a top cop gets an outrageous pension (by YOUR standards) does that mean a 66 year old retired government clerk receiving $970 a month in retirement is outrageous?

    Generics are not convincing at all. I see today that many bankers administering mortgage loans are getting incredible bonuses on the backs of their customers losing their homes who have become unemployed due to no fault of their own, is that OK?

    Personally Eric Hogue, I’m not impressed by your commentary unless you can present the specifics.

  8. I agree. cut state jobs. goodness knows many positions and some entire offices are non-essential. Sadly, legislators don’t want to cut their pet projects, offices, blah blah blah.

  9. Maybe Eric Hogue can provide Republicans in the Legislature with specific proposals to make government more efficient, because the only thing those phony blowhards could find to substantiate this cheap mantra of theirs is eliminating the Trash Board (CIWMB). The total savings from their own “efficiency” mantra therefore amounts to 0.1% of the General Fund budget deficit, but the Trash Board isn’t even supported by the General Fund. Duh!

  10. A Hollywood breast groper in the governor’s mansion?


    That explains everything.

    Thanks for the valuable insight.

  11. Eric — That’s quite a screed on your Web site against the UC Labor Center. But what I don’t see is any specific arguments against this report’s data and/or methodology to back up your claim that it’s “bogus” or “propaganda” — do you have any?

  12. No study can be purely objective, but this one has little credibility and did not deserve news media portrayal as an objective, neutral study. There was no way this report, produced by an affiliate of the UC Miguel Contreras Labor Program, was prepared with any possibility that its conclusions would not condemn furloughs. The Labor Program’s executive committee members include Angie Wei (Legislative Director, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO), Jay Hansen (Legislative and Political Director, State Building & Construction Trades Council), and Paul Kumar (Director of Government and Community Affairs, Service Employees International Union – SEIU, United Health Care Workers West). Conflict of interest right there! It’s a shame that taxpayers and not unions are paying for such studies that also taint the UC reputation, but UC is a government university and thus subject to infiltration and manipulation by special interests and politicians.

  13. Josh,

    Research is about a null hypothesis; not a pre-determined bias that controls the instrument, the sample and the data that concludes. In simple terms; start with a bias, major internal validity threats, and a conclusion that is not significant. http://www.hoguenews.com for more details, listen to the audio folks.

  14. Hey Josh, do you find Eric Hogue’s 10/15/8:58 pm reply authoritative? Note that Mr. Hogue “attended Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio and Olivet University in Illinois. His course of study included communication, journalism, news reporting, religion education, as well as political, biblical and cultural studies” (from http://www.erichogueforassembly.com/about/). His CV doesn’t mention that he graduated. He’s as much of an expert on statistics as Al Gore (BA, journalism, Vanderbilt) is on climatology.

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