California's nonpartisan legislative analyst said Friday that Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to shift state workers to a four-day week would create some serious problems.
In his review of Brown's revised budget plan, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor also said California's budget deficit is likely worse than the Democratic governor's estimate of $15.7 billion, suggesting it may more than $17 billion.
Brown proposed a $91.4 billion general fund budget Monday that slashes health and welfare programs and courts. His proposal also relies on voters temporarily raising taxes on sales and wealthy earners to help cover this year's budget gap and deficits in future years.
Brown also hopes to save $839 million about $402 million in the general fund by moving workers to a four-day, 9.5-hour-a-day work schedule and docking their pay 5 percent. While the plan is still being fleshed out, state offices would likely be closed one day a week, providing some building-operation savings.
But Taylor noted the furlough plan raises issues:
With three-day weekends, employees won't use as much leave, which will increase the state's deferred costs when workers cash out.
It will hinder interaction with government agencies that operate on regular schedules.
It may not reduce energy costs. Taylor said Utah found its energy savings were "not significant" after it went to a four-day week in 2008.
Taylor said Brown's revenue forecast is "reasonable," though it's still $550 million above the analyst's projection through June 2013. On top of that, the analyst warned that Brown's estimate of money available from former redevelopment programs could be overstated by $900 million.
Based on those initial judgments, the Legislative Analyst's Office seems to suggest that the state deficit is more than $17 billion rather than $15.7 billion, which was Brown's estimate. But an exact deficit figure wasn't provided and the analysis simply says that the budget problem is "likely somewhat larger" than Brown has estimated.
Taylor's report also cast doubt on Brown's plan to spend $411 million from the national mortgage settlement to reduce the deficit. The governor has proposed that the money the entire amount due state government in the multibillion-dollar settlement on behalf of homeowners could be used to offset the state's costs for housing bond debt payments and some functions of the attorney general's office.
Given the state's deficit, the analyst wrote, Brown's plan for the mortgage money "merits legislative consideration," but noted that some of the uses for the money "could fall outside the intent of the settlement agreement" because "they do not directly relate to consumer fraud, borrower relief, services for homeowners, or other permitted uses."