Costa Mesa’s Pink Slip Spending Plan

By: - March 24, 2011 12:00 am

HALVING THE WORKFORCE: Costa Mesa, California , employed a draconian strategy in coping with growing pension costs last week: It handed out pink slips to nearly half of its workers, from fire fighters to street sweepers. The city plans to outsource many services to the private sector as a way to reduce its future pension obligations, The Los Angeles Times reports , instead of taking more common cost-cutting steps, such as requiring employees to contribute more toward their retirements. One maintenance worker committed suicide by jumping from the city hall roof as the notices were being handed out on Thursday. “It’s like they decided to blow up the city,” Bill Folsom, a 58-year-old mechanic who got a pink slip, told The Washington Post .

REDUCED LEVERAGE FOR MANAGERS:  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s administration is hoping to revive a proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from about 4,000 state workers who hold management positions, The State Journal-Register reports . All but a few managers are union members in Illinois; altogether, 96 percent of the state’s 45,000 employees belong to unions. Collective barganing rights for rank-and-file employees would remain intact. The bill’s introduction has been delayed by negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which issued a  press release  opposing it.

NON-NEGOTIABLE BENEFITS: A New Hampshire House committee approved a change that would give public agency executives full authority to determine employees’ wages and benefits after contracts expire, the Concord Monitor reports .  Proponents say the change would give unions an incentive to negotiate in a timely matter. “If unions who couldn’t agree (on a contract) knew that wages, retirement benefits and health care benefits would be at the discretion of the employer, we’d see a much more rapid settlement of contracts,” Republican state Representative Neal Kurk, the legislaton’s sponsor, told the Monitor .  

HE’S GOT MAIL: Questions about whether the Wisconsin legislature properly followed state open meetings laws have temporarily blocked implementation of the bill, championed by Governor Scott Walker, which rescinds collective bargaining rights for public workers. Creative use of another transparency-related measure — the state’s open records law — by Isthmus , the Associated Press and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, offers a glimpse inside the governor’s inbox during the week after he unveiled his plan. Of the more than 50,000 emails Walker received that week, 62 percent were in support of the bill, while 32 percent were opposed. But about a third of Walker’s support came from outside the state. A full 89 percent of the emails disagreeing with Walker came from inside Wisconsin. 

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Melissa Maynard

Melissa Maynard oversees the Pew state fiscal health project’s Fiscal 50 online resource, which helps policymakers understand fiscal, economic, and demographic trends affecting their states by tracking tax revenue, reserves, employment rates, Medicaid spending, and other issues important to long-term fiscal health.