Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said this morning that Democrats are willing to make the permanent reductions to state employee benefits in law Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is seeking as long as the administration and unions negotiate "in good faith" for 30 days first.
Speaking to The Bee Capitol Bureau the day after budget talks with Schwarzenegger broke down, the Sacramento Democrat said the administration must negotiate with the unions before imposing furloughs or asking lawmakers to make permanent changes to employees' benefits. The governor issued an executive order to furlough state employees two days a month for 17 months and wants lawmakers to permanently eliminate two paid holidays and change holiday overtime rules for state workers
Steinberg noted that state employee contracts have expired .... and said "there has not been any effort by the administration to negotiate successor contracts."
While he acknowledged "the state has nothing to give because of the financial situation," he said it makes sense for the administration to consult with employee unions because they may have other ideas about how to save money.
"It's reasonable to sit down for 30 days and at least consider the views" of worker representatives, he said.
And if those talks were conducted in good faith but failed to produce agreement, lawmakers would support the permanent changes the governor seeks, Steinberg said.
He said lawmakers have an interest in finding savings in the state workforce because if they don't, "that's going to mean deeper cuts to health and human services or some other area."
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