The State Worker

Jon Ortiz chronicles civil-service life for California state workers

The State Worker: Fearless forecasts – for the year gone by

01/02/2014 12:00 AM

01/01/2014 8:22 PM

The state continues work on a massive computer system to unite its vast galaxy of financial data. The 6-month-old Government Operations Agency aims to reinvent the bureaucracy. CalPERS is in the middle of a massive audit of its health insurance rolls to weed out anyone who shouldn’t be on them.

Other scribes might predict how those stories will turn out in 2014, but this column dares run counter to convention. Herewith, our 100-percent guaranteed-accurate predictions – for the year that just expired:

•  A new state law will mandate workers joining a public retirement system on or after Jan. 1, 2013, where they will pay more and work longer for less generous pensions than their more-senior colleagues. San Jose mayor and pension-change advocate Chuck Reed will say that’s not good enough. He’ll file a statewide ballot proposal that gives governments the power to prospectively lower benefits for established employees. No crystal ball required to predict union reaction.
• A court will rule against part of a 2012 voter-approved San Jose measure Reed championed. Measure B would have altered retirement benefits going forward for current city employees unless they paid more toward their pensions. Reed ends 2013 with questions about whether he can raise money to put a statewide measure before voters.
• Hundreds of salaried state employees will be found to hold second hourly wage positions within their departments. Officials will defend the practice as a cost-saver justified by a vaguely written, obscure state policy. Two state audits will say otherwise. Brown will ban the “additional appointments.”
• State furloughs will end midyear. Brown will negotiate new contracts with deferred raises for nearly all 180,000 or so unionized state employees. The big winners: 741 key State Water Project employees who receive raises of up to 37.4 percent. That’s still below what some local agencies pay.
• Officials will ax a failing DMV computer project after paying $50 million to contractor HP Enterprise Services, a unit of Hewlett-Packard, where Meg Whitman is the CEO. Remember Whitman? During her failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign, she promised to whack 40,000 state government jobs with better technology.
• In a $250 million embarrassment, state Controller John Chiang will nix a state payroll computer project after test runs goof up pay for 1,300 of his own employees.
• Lawmakers will funnel emergency money to Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office after The Bee reports on a six-week backlog for processing 120,000 business filings, all on paper and many with checks attached. The Legislature, which had cut Bowen’s funding, comes to the “rescue” with $1.6 million to work down the backlog. A new computer system (gulp!) is supposed to automate filings in 2016.

Create a crisis, then solve it. Brilliant. Almost as brilliant as forecasting the events of 2013 after they’ve happened.

About This Blog

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at jortiz@sacbee.com or 916-321-1043. Twitter: @TheStateWorker.

 

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