Jerry Brown touts progress in war on phones

California Gov. Jerry Brown today said his administration has eliminated 29,398 cell phones, a 44 percent cut in the number of phones issued to workers in state agencies and departments under his direct authority.

He said even deeper cuts will be made in the next 30 days to reach a target of 33,559 cell phones and achieve the 50 percent reduction outlined in a Jan. 11 executive order; a 50 percent cut should save taxpayers at least $13 million, he estimates.

“We’ve eliminated tens of thousands of cell phones and saved taxpayers millions, but we’re not done,” Brown said in a news release, noting he turned in his own government-issued cell phone on the day he issued the executive order. Phones issued to his own office’s workers have been cut by 75 percent.

Various agencies and departments have submitted requests for a total of 4,916 exemptions from Brown’s order; these requests will be reviewed in order to ensure they are necessary and, if necessary, the administration will seek deeper cuts in other departments.

“In my executive order I made it clear that exemptions will only be granted if phones are mission critical or tied to public safety,” Brown said. “We will deny exemption requests — or force deeper cuts to other agencies and departments — to ensure the 50 percent reduction is realized within 30 days.”

Agencies and departments are now working with vendors to return the phones for refunds and credits toward future service charges.

The executive order originally identified about 96,000 devices, including 11,300 at other state government entities that are not under the Governor’s executive authority; 8,700 that already had been eliminated or deactivated; 7,000 that originally were classified as cell phones and smart phones but actually were other telecommunications devices not covered by the order, such as data modems in CHP vehicles and traffic telemetry devices used by CalTrans; and 2,000 furnished by local and federal authorities and so not subject to the order.

The phone order is one of several Brown has issued to trim government spending even as the Legislature remains deadlocked on a budget. Other efforts have included halting all non-essential state employee travel; recovering uncollected salary and travel advances; stopping spending on free giveaway and gift items; reducing the state’s car fleet; and a hiring freeze.

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.

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