Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he has taken back 29,398 state-issued cellphones from employees, displaying a pile of old BlackBerrys and flip phones for the media while promising to find more.
"We've eliminated tens of thousands of cellphones and saved taxpayers millions, but we're not done," Brown said in a prepared statement.
Brown made headlines around the state when, within days of taking office, he ordered the return of half the state's cellphones by June 1. The executive order, the first of Brown's third term, was one of several popular, heavily symbolic measures Brown has used during the budget crisis to demonstrate his frugality.
The haul announced Wednesday amounted to a 44 percent reduction. The Democratic governor said in a release that he will reach his 50 percent goal by next month.
Brown turned in his own state-issued cellphone when he issued the executive order, in January. His office estimated the state will save at least $13 million if 33,559 cellphones, or 50 percent, are retrieved.
The Governor's Office was reviewing 4,916 requests from agencies for exemptions from the order. Brown said he will deny those requests or, if they are granted, require deeper cuts in other agencies.
Compliance varied widely. The two departments with the most cellphones, Transportation and Corrections and Rehabilitation, turned in 48 percent and 45 percent of employee phones, respectively, according to the Governor's Office.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection turned in only about 7 percent of its cellphones. A spokesman said its high number of exemption requests 1,137 was because phones are necessary for emergency communications.
Brown's office said 67,117 cellphones were covered by the order, fewer than the 96,000 Brown originally estimated. The reduction owed, among other things, to 11,300 phones being housed at state entities not under Brown's authority, and to 8,700 phones already having been eliminated or deactivated.
Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said Brown's cellphone reduction is "more tinkering around the edges."
"That's roughly one-half of one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget deficit," he said.