Governor Jerry Brown has told as many as 48,000 state employees to hand in their cell phones, a cutback he estimates could cut $20 million in budget spending.
While it's true that every little bit helps a state in as much fiscal trouble as ours, it's also true that Brown's executive order is a nice bit of symbolism about making state government more frugal -- especially helpful when he's prepping for a statewide election on $12 billion in taxes.
Brown issued the executive order this morning, which requires the mass mobile phone shutdown by June 1.
"It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones," said Brown in an emailed statement. "Some state employees, including department and agency executives who are required to be in touch 24 hours a day and seven days a week, may need cell phones, but the current number of phones out there is astounding."
(Sidenote: It's worth noting that this is Brown's first executive order as governor. The first executive order of Arnold Schwarzenegger? Cut the car tax, which actually increased state spending.)
The state Department of Finance estimates that the average state cell phone costs $36 a month, which is where the estimated $20 million savings comes from.
And yes, while $20 million is chump change when viewing a $25.4 billion gap, it's not pennies compared to some of the cuts Brown proposed yesterday.
State parks closures or hours cutbacks? Saves $11 million.
Vision coverage for kids in the Healthy Families program? $11 million.
It also may help the governor's political quest to convince voters he's squeezing every dime that he can out of state operations. Brown's budget also includes a reduction in the state's vehicle fleet, cuts to his own staff, and so on.
You can bet he'll remind voters of those kinds of things come this spring, when (if his plan moves forward) he'll be asking for an extension of current income, sales, and car tax rates for five more years.