California Governor Targets Cell Phone Use to Manage Expenses

By Andrew Litz January 12, 2011

California Governor Jerry Brown, in his first executive order since taking office, has instructed department heads to cut off 48,000 state employee cell phones by June 2011. Brown also promised that he would give up his own state-paid phone. The governor said that reducing the number of phones will save $20 million a year for the state, which faces a $25.4 billion budget gap over the next year and a half.

"It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones," the governor in a statement to the Associated Press that was reported in The Washington Post. "The current number of phones out there is astounding."

Each contract costs taxpayers $36 a month, on average, or $432 a year. Although some phones may be under long-term contracts, Brown said, the state can cut off others sooner. The goal for the state is to avoid early termination penalties that would exceed the potential savings that are expected to result from the move.

"Even with a 50 percent reduction, one-fifth of all state employees will still have cell phones," Brown said in the statement. "That still seems like too much." The top state agencies, in number of cell phones, are reportedly Transportation, Corrections and Rehabilitation, Public Health, Forestry and Fire Protection, and Social Services.

The reaction from state employee unions was mixed, with some declining to comment pending the release of further details, and others questioning the practicality of the decision.

Brown said he realizes that, "in the face of a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a cell phone may not seem like a big expense." However, in the face of budget pressures, the state would be hard-pressed to justify spending $20 million a year so employees can have state-funded 24/7 phone access.

The executive order is part of an effort by the budget-strapped state to require agency secretaries and department directors, in consultation with the state’s Department of Finance, to review operational costs in order to identify ways to reduce waste, redundancies, and their associated costs.

Andrew Litz brings more than 20 years of experience in publishing to his role as Web Editor at TMC, where he covers cloud computing, networking, and other related areas. Previously, Andrew served as a technical editor for a leading analyst firm providing research and advisory services to users of information technology, as well as providing editorial support to the IEEE, a global professional society in the areas of electrical engineering and electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Andrew Litz

TechZone360 Web Editor

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