Many Californians of all political persuasions had hoped that Jerry Brown's second governorship would be the equivalent of the "Nixon goes to China" situation. Mr. Nixon, a Cold War conservative, had the credibility to open up relations with communist China, just as hopeful Californians thought that Mr. Brown, a close ally of the public employee unions during his eight years as governor in the 1970s and '80s, would have the credibility to take on those unions to rein in costs and save the state budget from disaster.
We've found the above scenario to be increasingly unlikely given Mr. Brown's half-hearted pension-reform efforts and his refusal thus far to insist on government reforms to save money — as opposed to his first-reach answer of tax extensions. But now we see with clarity that Mr. Brown is behaving as a full-on union advocate. There is no chance that he will take on these powerful entities.
Case in point: A new contract that Brown negotiated with the politically powerful and sometimes thuggish union for state prison guards takes us back to the days of Gov. Gray Davis, who dramatically increased pay and benefits for the guards even as the state budget was teetering on the brink. The new contract allows guards something that other governors would not have considered: the ability to amass unlimited vacation pay and then cash it out at retirement — a windfall that will allow guards to retire with lump-sum payments of well over $100,000.
The contract lifts the cap on accrued vacation hours, now 80 days for most state employees, reports the Los Angeles Times. Nick Schroeder of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office told the Times that "he had not determined the cost of lifting the cap, but his analysis of the deal showed the average corrections union member has accumulated nearly 19 weeks of leave time to date. All of that time off has 'a current cash value of over $600 million,' he said."
Remember this largesse when Mr. Brown, who has made a big deal out of saving a relative few pennies here and there through various faux austerity measures, tells you that he needs more of your tax dollars to balance the budget.
Keep in mind that the guards' union has resisted efforts to keep cell phones from getting to prisoners through a simple reform that would have required guards — the key source of the illicit phones — from being screened on the way to work. This is a union that resists reform and yet the governor believes that Californians should pay more to benefit this group.