The State Worker

August 29, 2014

Lawmakers send Board of Equalization HQ bill to Jerry Brown

Editor’s note, 3:40 p.m.: This post has been updated with a quote from Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome Horton.

The State Worker

Jon Ortiz chronicles civil-service life for California state workers

Editor’s note, 3:40 p.m.: This post has been updated with a quote from Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome Horton.

The Assembly sent legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday that would take a small step toward moving the Board of Equalization out of its defective headquarters in downtown Sacramento.

The final version of Assembly Bill 1656 headed to Brown’s desk on a 66-0 vote is far less ambitious than the original draft, but it aligns with the Brown administration’s intention to assess the nearly three dozen state-owned-and-operated buildings in the Sacramento region and then create a master plan to maximize their use. The bill’s author, Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, originally proposed committing hundreds of millions of dollars to moving some 2,200 employees out of Equalization’s tower at 450 N St., but Brown signaled he wouldn’t go along.

Assuming the governor signs the bill, the Department of General Services, which acts as the state’s landlord and real estate agent, will receive $2.5 million to assess buildings and develop a long-range plan by next July, including identifying the three facilities in the worst condition. Those buildings – Dickinson assumes the Equalization tower qualifies – would be targeted for replacement. The Legislature would have to fund the projects.

Equalization Chairman Jerome Horton said the legislation conforming to Brown’s plan is a “road map” to a dealing with the worst state buildings.

“I pray that the studies can be completed quickly to get these employees relocated and stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.

The tower at 450 N St. has become a 24-story punchline and a symbol of government inefficiency. Taxpayers have spent more than $60 million to repair leaking windows, faulty elevators, and exterior glass panels that have crashed on the sidewalk. Repair crews have cleaned up toxic mold throughout the building. The state spends a million dollars annually to monitor for airborne toxics.

The board figures that it will take another $115 million to fix the building’s network of corroded waste-water pipes and to replace 2,000 exterior panels like those that have fallen.

In sum, past and pending repairs could cost double the 22-year-old building’s $89.76 million purchase price. The state still owes about $70 million to bondholders that financed the purchase.

Meanwhile, employees are suing Equalization for $75 million, alleging their employer failed to provide a safe workplace and concealed serious work site health hazards from them.

Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat, is running against Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan for the Senate seat of termed-out Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

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