A wave of emails hit The State Worker's in-box after a Bee report on Monday noted that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's administration hired fewer state workers last year than his GOP predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, added in 2010.
Nearly all the emailers and Facebook and Twitter messengers said the numbers prove Brown has gravitas and that Schwarzenegger was a boob.
"Schwarzenegger did not know what he was doing; nobody paid him or his programs much if any attention," retired parks employee Mike Carbahal posted on The State Worker's Facebook page. "Brown on the other hand, does know what he is doing and is taken very seriously."
Comparing how the two administrations handled managing the bureaucracy starts with the state budget.
After the 2008 economic meltdown, Schwarzenegger confronted a two-year, $60 billion deficit. It was one-third that size when Brown took over. It's down to "just" $9.2 billion now.
Schwarzenegger governed when the economy and other factors beyond his control put an epic strain on state services that added pressure to staff up. Meanwhile, a record 11,500 state workers retired in 2010.
During Brown's administration, retirements are down, California's unemployment rate has declined a bit and the state is shrinking prison and mental health programs. That's eased pressure to add more help.
Schwarzenegger sought immediate savings through furloughs and union concessions on things like pensions, paid holidays and overtime calculations.
But the controversial furloughs and threats to withhold pay during two budget stalemates led state workers to tag Schwarzenegger a make-it-up-as-you-go-along "hater" exploiting them for political gain.
The bureaucracy pushed back. Schwarzenegger ordered departments to issue layoff warnings, but some didn't follow protocol. He told managers to curb hiring, but the number of new hires remained the same.
"Departments did dig in their heels," said Dave Gilb, Schwarzenegger's personnel director. "They simply didn't like it."
In some ways Brown is the tougher boss. His hiring freeze last year required departments to ask his office for permission before hiring even one minimum-wage employee. Schwarzenegger's hiring policy didn't.
Brown proposed pension reforms far more sweeping than anything Schwarzenegger envisioned. Labor has struck a "We're working with the governor" tone while quietly working to undermine his plan. Unions would have declared war if it were a Schwarzenegger plan.
Brown hasn't threatened to use his power to lay off workers, either. He prefers job cuts from downsizing and eliminating programs. It's worked because labor, legislators and the bureaucracy have cooperated.
"Brown's approach is better for labor relations," Gilb said. "And a Democratic governor is more trusted by the unions."