Gov. Jerry Brown has axed cellphones, sold off state cars and canceled state swag orders.
Clearly, this is a governor who knows the value of symbolism. But did he miss an opportunity to score a few more points with the labor deal he closed last month with the state's correctional officers?
The contract already controversial because it didn't hit savings targets that Brown agreed on with the Legislature includes "fitness incentive pay." It's the kind of benefit that makes members of the public roll their eyes: an extra $780 to $1,560 a year for correctional officers who submit to a physical exam.
Then-Gov. Gray Davis first negotiated the payment as a substitute for what was called "bouncing for bucks," running and jumping tests to measure employee fitness.
CCPOA members with fewer than five years on the job received an extra $65 per month for passing the test. Their senior colleagues received $130 per month.
If correctional officers failed, they had 60 days to get in shape and try again.
Davis phased out the tests for CCPOA in 2002, replacing them with the annual medical exam. The pay stayed the same.
Bouncing for bucks was the norm in public safety for many years. Some union contracts still require it, including one now covering the state's game wardens and park rangers.
But many government agencies stopped the reviews because employees injured themselves either preparing for the tests or taking them. The California Highway Patrol, for example, used to test employees but stopped in the mid- 1990s for just those reasons. The state rolled the money into officers' base salary.
CCPOA could have sought to do the same, said Craig Brown, a negotiator and lobbyist for the union.
"Our people were winding up on workers' comp," and administering the tests to 30,000 prison officers all over the state was expensive, he said. "There was a mutual agreement between the union and management that this wasn't working."
So now the union deal requires the yearly checkup.
While that's not exactly a high bar to jump over for an extra $780 to $1,560 per year, "at least you get them to go to the doctor," Brown said. Maybe you even weed out a few unfit officers.
You can hear the questions: Has this type of incentive outlived its time? Shouldn't Brown have tried to end it?
That may have been difficult, since so many other law enforcement deals have offered similar benefits for years. Even former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, CCPOA's mortal enemy, didn't try to end the pay.
Brown would have been asking the union to take a cut on top of the unpaid leave, higher pension contributions and lower retirement benefits promised to new hires that it did accept.
But had he succeeded, Brown would have won a concession that, like cutting cellphones and state cars, the public could have easily understood.