SACRAMENTO (CBS 5 / AP) ― Gov. Jerry Brown is hanging up his state-issued cell phone, and he’s ordered half the state bureaucrats who have government-paid cell phones to do the same.
“It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones,” the new governor said Tuesday. “The current number of phones out there is astounding.”READ MORE: South Bay Retailer Shutters Store in Response to Smash-and-Grab Crime Wave
Brown used his first executive order since taking office a week ago to instruct department heads to cut off 48,000 state employee cell phones by June.
That’s half of the 96,000 phones issued to state bureaucrats. Brown said that dialing back the number of phones will save $20 million a year as the state works to bridge a $25.4 billion budget gap over the next 18 months.
Brown told reporters he would turn in his own phone by day’s end.
The contracts each cost taxpayers an average of $36 a month, or $432 a year, according to the Department of Finance. Some phones may be under long-term contracts, Brown said, but the state can hang up on others more quickly. He said he wants the state to avoid any early termination penalties that would exceed the potential savings.
“Even with a 50 percent reduction, one-fifth of all state employees will still have cell phones,” he said. “That still seems like too much.”
Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said the top state agencies, in number of cell phones, are Transportation; Corrections and Rehabilitation; Public Health; Forestry and Fire Protection; and Social Services.READ MORE: Grieving Family Members Call for Justice for Slain Security Guard Kevin Nishita
Reaction among state employee unions was mixed.
Jim Zamora, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1000, the largest state employee union, declined to comment until the state decides who must actually turn in their phones.
Patrick Whalen, general counsel for California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment, said Brown’s order was the subject of lunch-table discussion among state employees. But he said it is impractical for many of his members.
“We’re all checking e-mails at midnight and that sort of thing,” Whalen said. “I would suspect that if you’re working on a big case, you want to get in touch with your lawyer around the clock.
“Having said that, this is not our biggest issue,” Whalen said.
Brown acknowledged that, “in the face of a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a cell phone may not seem like a big expense.”
But he said the state can’t justify spending $20 million a year so employees can reach out and touch someone day or night.MORE NEWS: Warriors End Suns’ Win Streak at 18 With 118-96 Victory
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