There goes our optimistic theory that, because repeat Governor Jerry Brown is at the end of his, erm, working years, he might operate at least somewhat freely of California's political lobbying machine.

Ha! But of course not. Not even thrifty people's hero Brown can escape the pull of the California prison guards union, one of the largest donors to his 2010 campaign and hands-down the most powerful electoral manipulator in the state. (More than the teachers' union. And that's no small feat.)

Either the dude's senile…

… and thus missed the stipulation in the new state prison-guard contract that allows guards to turn unused vacation days into cash, or he's looking to repay the union for its major support slash stay in its good graces.

Brown's wasteful proposal is made all the more painful for taxpayers given its worst-possible timing. From today's LA Times piece:

Removing the decades-old limit on accrued vacation — now 80 days for most state employees — would be a “huge liability” for taxpayers, said Nick Schroeder of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Schroeder said 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.

The deal also would give the members 18 more days off over the life of the two-year contract, according to Schroeder, bringing the typical prison guard's time off to more than eight weeks in the first year.

Almost more outrageous is that the guards will now be paid $1,560 per year just for getting a physical. (They only got the money before if they met certain fitness standards.)

Meanwhile, higher education gets its legs chopped off and thousands of teachers are handed pink slips — as much a disservice to them as to California's next generation. There isn't an excuse in the world that could justify a perk this fat. Still, Brown's office makes its best attempt:

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said the vacation cap had to be removed because work furloughs imposed by Schwarzenegger added so many days to corrections officers' time off that they “can't avoid exceeding the vacation cap.”

Because they just couldn't bear to take that many days off work.

As far as unions go, the heads of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association are certainly doing their jobs right. In Senator Alex Padilla's push to rid state prisons of smuggled-in cellphones, the one stipulation that can't make its way off the blocks is that prison guards (and other staff) be scanned for the phones on the way into work — basically the only way the majority of the phones could be detected.

But union officials insist that guards be paid for any “walk time” between their cars and the front door. And Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, equally tied to the CCPOA, wasn't about to contradict that.

Good to see that Brown has no more cajones than his predecessing girly man. Who cares about $200 saved on a Southwest flight, when the head of the state wants to sink billions into the retirement pots of California's best-paid, least-trained public workers.

What a joke. We'd probably laugh, if it wasn't so depressing.


LA Weekly