Brown orders state workers to turn in phones

January 11, 2011 7:00:44 PM PST
All over California, state workers, already angered by furloughs and budget cuts are about to become frustrated once again. Gov. Jerry Brown is taking away cell phones from thousands of state employees. They're not happy and others are not impressed.

It's an astounding number. A review by the Brown administration revealed California taxpayers pay for 96,000 cell phones, meaning 40 percent of state workers have one. In his first executive order since taking office, Brown looks to save $20 million a year by disconnecting thousands of wireless devices.

"I put an order out saying we want to cut cell phone use in half because we've got to look for waste. It's not just cutting out programs. It's making government leaner and more effective," says Brown.

State workers whose duties are mostly behind a desk will be targeted first, but it'll be up to managers to decide who'll be cut off by the June 1st deadline.

CalTrans bridge engineer Mike Whiteside hopes he doesn't have to turn in his Blackberry. With technology so much a part of business these days, he feels it'll be harder to do his job without it.

"They haven't told us yet if mine will be taken away, but this thing is my communications device. I'm out of the office two to three days a week, in construction office, with consultants, and this is how I stay in touch with my boss and my staff," says Whiteside.

Even Brown says he's turning in his state-issued cell phone.

"I'm giving mine in right today," says Brown.

But some Californians are not impressed. They're still seething over Brown's budget proposal that slashes safety net programs the poor rely on.

"It's going to be a definite struggle," says Oscar Porras.

For Porras, he'll be hit with a triple whammy if the Brown budget is approved. The unemployed community college student will see his tuition go up $10 a unit and his sales and car registration taxes remain high.

"Why is it always going to be the lower income people, the middle income people that have to come up with the largest share of California's taxes?" says Porras.

While $20 million is small changed compared to the $26 billion deficit, the cell phone order is seen as a pitch to voters to show them that state government is cutting all it can before asking them to approve the extension of temporary tax hikes.

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