SACRAMENTO — The state paid civil service and California State University workers about 4 percent less in 2008 than in 2009, but the cuts were applied unevenly and about one quarter of state workers' pay increased, according to a Bee analysis of data from the state controller's office.
Largely because of furloughs, pay cuts last year of $800 million nearly equaled the $900 million increase in state worker pay from 2007 to 2008. Employees at some departments — Developmental Services, the Franchise Tax Board and Health Services, to name a few — were hit with a double whammy: less staff, less pay.
But there were winners, too. Most California Highway Patrol employees, along with those toiling for several constitutional officers, saw their overall pay increase. Those workers weren't subject to furloughs, fell outside the governor's control, or both. The remaining employees who earned more last year worked more overtime; were promoted; or cashed out unused vacation and sick pay when they retired.
It's been more than a year since Gov. Schwarzenegger mandated that most state workers take furlough days without pay. Since July, employees have been forced to take off three days a month.
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It's a simple concept that, in practice, has proved complicated.
At the Employment Development Department, for example, total pay increased about 4 percent, the second-largest increase among large agencies, behind the California Highway Patrol.
Although EDD employees are technically taking furlough days, their caseload has ballooned because of crushing increases in unemployment. So, in reality, they are working through furloughs and banking days for use later.
Meanwhile, overtime at the EDD has more than doubled, and hundreds of new workers were hired after Congress increased unemployment insurance money for states in July 2008, triggering what EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy called, "the most aggressive hiring effort in the history of the department." The result of this mishmash: A decrease in total base pay — salary minus overtime and bonuses — at the department because of the furloughs and despite the hiring. But total pay at the department, largely thanks to overtime, increased by about $18 million.
Causes were different at the Highway Patrol, but results were similar. The CHP increased spending on base pay, overtime and total pay during 2009. Its $61 million payroll jump was almost as large an increase as the $74 million rise from 2007 to 2008.
The Highway Patrol has a separate union contract with the state that allowed the vast majority of its employees to avoid furloughs. The department also hired many officers as part of its first major expansion in decades, which started before the current budget woes.
While most Highway Patrol officers earned more in 2009 than during 2008, that trend may weaken in next year's numbers. In July 2009, the patrol's officers union voted to apply the entire modest raise for this fiscal year to reduce health insurance costs for retirees.
Far more common was the fate of workers at two agencies focused on helping the disabled: the Developmental Services Department and the Department of Rehabilitation.
At Developmental Services, total pay dropped about $55 million, or 13 percent, from 2008 to 2009. Base pay and overtime also dropped sharply and the department posted a net loss of 778 full-time employees from July 2008 through January 2010.
At the Department of Rehabilitation, total pay dropped $8 million, or almost 10 percent. Because of the cuts, the department, which helps the disabled find work, has cut back on outreach and subsequently has seen fewer people asking for help at a time more people need that help, said spokeswoman Jennifer Benson.
While ordering cuts for tens of thousands of state workers, Schwarzenegger largely practiced what he preached. Pay in his office dropped about 14 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to the data.
Prior administrations sometimes have moved staff salaries into other departments to make it appear the executive has cut jobs and costs, but the governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear, said that hasn't been the case with his boss.
"Those were real cuts," McLear said. "Real savings."