Politics

California prison guards get huge payout under new deal

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown is being accused of giving state prison guards a sweet deal as payback for their union's support in the election. But some people are pointing at the previous administration, blaming Arnold Schwarzenegger for putting the state on the hook.

The new labor contract for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has a cash windfall provision that is raising eyebrows. The deal lifts the cap on saved vacation, meaning prison guards will be able to stash away an unlimited number of vacation days and get a lump sum payout when they quit or retire. Normally state workers can accrue up to 80 days of vacation for payouts.

"Taxpayers in California will be outraged at the extent to which Gov. Brown is absolutely caving to the public employee unions, in this instance, the CCPOA," Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association spokesperson Jon Coupal said.

An analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office found the average prison guard accumulated 19 weeks of leave time to date, a total cash value of $600 million today.

The union blames the Schwarzenegger administration for imposing furloughs, which guards could not take because of personnel shortages in a 24-hour operation. Labor laws also mandate that furlough days be taken first before vacation days, which makes it difficult to stay within the cap.

"It is actually an example of the previous administration choosing short-term savings over the long term liability, which we're seeing today," CCPOA spokesperson JeVaughn Baker said.

State records show the average vacation payout for Corrections employees is $25,000. But in 2010, a $97,000-a-year-parole agent received a lump sum of $269,000 for unused leave, a $119,000-a-year administrator got $243,000 and a $70,000-a-year parole agent got $176,000.

The Brown administration denies accusations the deal is payback for the powerful prison guard union spending almost $2 million last year to help Brown get elected.

"I'd say balderdash, go talk to them, they're not happy one dang bit with the financial package they got," Department of Personnel Administration Director Ron Yank said. "We did our job looking out for the interest of citizens, the taxpayers of this state."

The new contract must still be approved by the Legislature. It also includes a 5 percent cut in pay.

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