California Workers Choose Pensions Over Furloughs

RETIREMENT BOOM: Nationally, many state workers are putting off retirement because of economy-related nerves, temporarily delaying the brain drain that states have been anticipating. California may be the exception. The Sacramento Bee reports that nearly 12,000 state workers drew their first pension checks last year, a 23 percent increase from 2009. The Bee credits the exodus to furloughs that could make a pension more profitable than working for some employees. The trend is likely to continue if a recent report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office is any indication of what's ahead for the state's workers. The report  argues that much of the saving proposed in the governor's budget is unlikely to be realized because of overly rosy estimates and reliance on unions for approval. One proposed alternative: The legislature could exercise its authority to set state worker salary levels and impose pay cuts.
BARGAINING UNDER SIEGE: Public unions in Ohio have been bracing for battle with Governor John Kasich, a Republican who campaigned on curbing their influence and dramatically reducing the size of government. But a new proposal from Senate Republicans goes even further than those that the governor has floated . The Columbus Dispatch calls the Senate plan "the most sweeping attempt in 27 years to limit the power of public unions to negotiate terms of employment." The proposal would eliminate collective bargaining rights for all state workers, including those in higher education.
LAME-DUCK LIMITS: Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would prevent lame-duck officeholders from lavishing supporters with pay raises and promotions on their way out the door. The proposal comes in response to a recent incident in Bergen County in which Democratic county leaders voted for more than 100 appointments to county jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in retroactive pay raises, according to The Star-Ledger . "I was offended, along with many of my constituents, who expressed dissatisfaction with the huge increases in salary and with the promotions," said Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, one of the bill's sponsors. 

TACTICAL SHIFT: New York governors are used to haggling with  unionized state workers over the terms of their employment. But this year the playbook is different — both for the governor and the unions. The Wall Street Journal op-ed page compared Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to New Jersey's Chris Christie — the Republican governor whose bureaucracy-busting methods have made him an icon among fiscal conservatives — after Cuomo unveiled an aggressive budget calling for an end to "baseline budgeting," which leads to automatic salary increases for state workers based on entrenched spending formulas. The unions, for their part, appear to be abandoning the radio and television ad blitz that is their usual method for fighting such proposals and are switching to grassroots tactics, according to The New York Times .
FURLOUGHS AND THE FEDS: In the name of fairness, former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle included all state workers in her furlough order — regardless of whether the state was footing the bill for their salaries. But incoming Governor Neil Abercrombie has agreed to end such furloughs, restoring full pay to 1,200 state workers whose salaries are covered by the federal government, the Associated Press reports .


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