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Jerry Brown moves to eliminate retiree workers

Posted 8 years 29 days ago ago by newspaper editor    3 Comments  -4 Likes Like Dislike

Sacramento Bee June 13, 2012

As Friday's state budget deadline approaches, a little-noticed provision in Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal would cut off thousands of retirees who return to work for the state.
The idea targets all but the most essential of the state's so-called "retired annuitants," a group of about 5,800 workers who drew $110 million in pay from the state last year on top of their pensions.
The Democratic governor's proposal could strike a chord with taxpayers by appearing to crack down on double-dipping. It also appeals to public employee unions – which want to eliminate jobs they believe stunt the growth of the regular workforce – at the same time he's asking union workers to accept furloughs and a 5 percent pay cut.
Though axing retirees may score points with Brown's political base, critics say the practice would cut off experienced, flexible and relatively cheap help. Retired annuitants receive no benefits and can be laid off without notice.
"The underlying policy is silly," said Mike Genest, state finance director under former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It's false populism."
The state has used retired annuitants for years, and many workers have factored that into their retirement plans. Still, union leaders are just as happy to see them go.
"We need to get rid of retired annuitants, because they've already worked for the state and they have their retirement," Service Employees International Union Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said Saturday during an online town hall meeting with members to discuss furlough negotiations. "In addition, having them in place, it blocks the way for upward mobility. It blocks the way for our people to move up. This is not right when you're looking at cutting employee rank-and-file compensation."
Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for Brown's Department of Personnel Administration, said Tuesday that the governor is taking a hard look at retirees as part of his negotiations with the unions.
"DPA has been meeting with agency secretaries to ask their departments to identify which retired annuitants are mission-critical," Jolley said.
It remains unclear whether the move would save the state money, or whether it would be permanent.
Retired annuitants are a small piece of the state payroll – just 7 cents of every $10 paid to workers during calendar 2011 went to returning retirees, who can work up to 960 hours during a fiscal year without affecting their pension checks.
The figures don't include employees of the state's university systems or the Legislature.
As a group, retired annuitants have been an easy target for politicians and labor, stoked by high-profile stories of abuses.
Florida recently extended how long public employees have to wait for government work after a series of double-dipping reports, including a state attorney who cashed out his leave for more than $500,000, started collecting an $8,500-a-month retirement check – and in 30 days returned to his $153,000-a-year job.
Florida's new law requires retired public employees to wait six months before returning to government work.
In California, relatively few state retirees pull down big paychecks. Last year, 14 state workers earned more than $100,000 Most were doctors, according to state payroll records. Another 260 earned more than $50,000, a mix of administrators, consultants and medical professionals.
Most state retirees earned far less, with the average annual wage running about $19,000. They can't take work that pays more than the job they left, although they can accept positions that pay less.
Retirees don't have job guarantees, so they can be let go without an employer navigating the labyrinth of civil service protections and labor contract rules that govern the layoff process for regular state employees.
"There's a business case to be made that you should hire more of them," said Genest, a state pensioner whose former boss once ordered the state to thin the retired annuitant ranks. "They've already done the work. You don't have to wait for them to figure out what they do. And you can turn them on and off. Hire a state worker, and it's goodbye in 30 years."
At the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, nearly 1,000 retirees perform an array of tasks in the 63,000-employee agency, from clerical work to handling inmates. Beset by legal and financial pressures for years, the department has terminated hundreds of employees as the state shifts more convicted inmates to local jails.
"We're looking at every retired annuitant in our system," said Terri McDonald, undersecretary of operations for the department. "When a position doesn't meet our critical 24/7 requirements, it will be canceled. But when RAs do meet a critical need, we'll keep them on. There will always be some RAs on our books … because some important roles can be difficult to fill through regular staffing."
The department uses retirees to mentor wardens and other top-level employees, transport inmates for medical care and fill hard-to-recruit positions such as cooks and other operations staff in some institutions.
Jim Coe, 74, worked for the state for 40 years before retiring. For the last 13 years, he has worked as a retired annuitant with the Department of Water Resources, where, as a flood control expert and former branch chief, he fills in "when we need some regulation-writing expertise."
"I didn't get rich working for the state," Coe said. He uses the extra money he earns as an annuitant for trips that he couldn't afford when he was a full-time employee.
He scoffed at the notion that retirees like him rip off the state.
"It's a way for the state to take advantage of its investment," Coe said, noting that he draws no benefits and can be released at any time. "I think the conditions they put on us are fair. It's a good deal for me and I know it's a good deal for the state, too."
The Sacramento-based California State Retirees Association assists members with finding state jobs. At any time, the organization handles about 400 applications.
The organization recently surveyed its members and found that many need more money to cover increasing health care costs.
"It's little wonder, then, that retirees are interested in the (retired annuitant) program," said Susan Sears, the organization's president. "For some of them, it could be a vital lifeline."


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  • Watercolor Artist 8 years 16 days ago
    I worked for the State over 37 years. I only get about 78% of what I was making then. It took two years before I got a 2% raise. I had worked some short annuitant jobs, but did not get much money. Then, I worked some consultant jobs and made more money. This caused me to pay more taxes, so I did not get that much. Yvonne is off. The State needs annuitants. Annuitants are cheaper than consultants. I remember when the executives at the Employment Development Department were upset about retired State workers collecting unemployment insurance. These executives had two bills past to stop retire employees from collecting unemployment and becoming annuitants. They made it that if you collected unemployment that you could not work for 2 years as an annuitant. At the same time these same executives, they would give the call center State employees who are part time and could only work 9 months and give them full unemployment for the 3 months they are off. They said that these employees bought new cars and had house payments. In other words, the executives were using a double standard. Annuitant are not allowed to collect unemployment but call center employees are. I found out a lot of secrets from the executive office that most people don't know about. When Jerry was a lot younger and his first time in as Governor many many years ago, he had some of his young college law students from Stanford and Berkeley in his office behind closed doors. They were talking about people on welfare and said that they were making too much money and that we should cut their income back. Most of these young people on his staff came from rich parents and went to expensive Universities and had not worked in their life. Now Jerry is trying it again, he wants to cut the Retire Annuitants out. I can understand that higher paid jobs where those people don't need the extra money, but many of these annuitants are not rich like those young kids. I had to work my way through college. I went to college at night and worked in the day time. It took me 12 years to get a 4 year degree. When I retired after 37 years of service, I only got 78% of my salary at that time. These annuitant retiree are paying into the union each month. Yvonne is off target with her comments. She needs to weed out some of the high payment jobs of CEA and others who come back as consultants or annuitants. Russ Bohart was the head of the Health and Welfare Agency Data Center many years ago. I remember when he was a Data Processing Manager II at the Employment Development Department. He was made a Career Executive Administrator III with the Health and Welfare Agency Date Center. When he retired, I had talked to him downtown and he told me that he was a consultant to CalPERS on their computer system making a lot of money. I told me about some of the new ideas that he was working on with them. CalPERS is now facing a lot of problems with their computers. They could use someone like Russ now, but Jerry and Yvonne want to cut these people out. I was also good with computers and could solve a lot of problems, but I can not get an annuitant job. And with Jerry's help, no one will be able to get an annuitant job. DPA has always been the watch dog for the Governors off. They are not our friends. They will cut positions and pay as much as they can. Instead of taking it out on the employees who do all the work, they should be looking at the various programs that cost a lot of money and create more high paying executive jobs. We operate like a salve state. The Masters Owners are the Executives and the Employees and Annuitants are the Salves. We need more Freedom and Equality. CSEA should support the employees and annuitants. Not only are we members and pay them, but they also represent the slaves.

  • Watercolor Artist 8 years 18 days ago
    I think that some of the retirees who come back to work part time are needed by the State. Jerry my cut them for now, but not all are double dipping. There is another type of double dipping that they are not looking at from high paying salaries. Many years ago when I was working for the State, I talked to the Attorney General to the State. He was collecting retirement as an Attorney General in LA and retirement from the Air Force Reserves as a General and planned to collect another retirement from the State as the Attorney General. Of course, if you want to work all those jobs then you deserve all the retirement you can get. As for the annuitants, they could cut some of them but not all. They could make a percentage of annuitants to full time employees like they do for part time employees. As for the high paying jobs, we should take a closer look at them. I knew another fellow who was the head of the large Data Centers as a CEA III or IV. He retired and came back as a consultant to CalPERS on the data processing department. These are extremes cases and not normal. Many people may even work in lower level positions then what they worked in when working active employees. If the Governor wants to save money, he should make a time limit of one of two years for cutting back annuitant employees and not a permanent change. When I was an active current full time employee, I had help an employee come back as an annuitant. He was getting a retirement from Aerojet and had just retired from the State. A manager came to me for help, because the personnel staff would not bring him back. I wrote up the need to bring him back because of case studies he did that were still active. I thought that he could help as an expert in court hearings. Little did I know, he did not want to do those cases. He went on trips and social event, where I had to cover for him. He even worked on other projects not assigned by our manager and anyone else. I hear that he is still working as an annuitant today. However, he was not getting full retirement from the State government. Nor are all the annuitants getting full retirement from the State. Some may have retired early with only 8 years of service in but of retirement age and need the money that they can get as an annuitant. In other words, the Governor's proposal is to general and should take into consideration the need for the position and the need of the individuals. He could save money by eliminating the high paying double dipping and some limited need or displacement of appointment regular full time or part time employees. Jerry and his father were good Governors in their day. I had worked under both of them. But now, Jerry is not the same person and he is also double dipping. Unless he is working for free, he is also double dipping. Who is calling the Kettle Black and taking it out on the helpless retirees? Who else but our current Governor. He needs to cut more programs to save money. He needs to look at State funded without Federal funding programs. I know of several that he could cut out, but he won't. In conclusion, State Annuitants should not be the target. But, the Governor should look more closely on how to balance the budget by raising taxes, selling property, and cutting out programs that we can not afford.

  • Frank Weinstein 8 years 23 days ago
    "...We need to get rid of retired annuitants, because they've already worked for the state and they have their retirement,..." That statement is unfortunate, I think. In addition to telling current retirees that they don't matter, Yvonne is sending a message to current state workers, too: Once you retire, get lost. I worked for the state for 30 years. During that time, I was voluntarily a union member, and I was glad to be one because of the benefits they won for me. I'm still concerned about current employees, but if the quote is accurate, I think Yvonne is saying that once you retire, we couldn't care less about you. Excluding law enforcement (because I don't know about them), RA's have to be justified. They are not used as replacement workers. And a 1/2 time employee doesn't ruin a permanent worker's upward mobility.

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