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Brown orders state-issue cell-phone cuts

January 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Thousands of state workers will have their cell phones taken away as Governor Brown looks to trim the budget. And he is the first to turn one in.The slashing continues in order to close a $26-billion budget deficit. With the average cell-phone bill about $36 per month, Brown ordered many state workers to "hang it up."

It's an astounding number: A review by the Brown administration revealed California taxpayers pay for 96,000 cell phones, meaning 40 percent of state workers have one.

In his first executive order since taking office, Brown looks to save $20 million a year by disconnecting thousands of wireless devices.

"I put out an order saying we want to cut this cell phone use in half because we've got to look for waste," said Brown. "It's not just cutting out programs. It's making government leaner and more effective."

State workers whose duties are mostly behind a desk will be targeted first, but it'll be up to managers to decide who'll be cut off by the June 1 deadline.

Caltrans bridge engineer Mike Whiteside hopes he doesn't have to turn in his BlackBerry.

With technology so much a part of business these days, he feels it'll be harder to do his job without it.

"They haven't told us yet if mine will be taken away, but this thing is my communication device," said Whiteside. "I'm out of the office two, three days a week, in construction offices, at consultants. This is how I stay in touch with my boss and my staff."

Even Brown says he's turning in his state-issued cell phone.

But some Californians are not impressed. They're still seething over Brown's budget proposal that slashes safety net programs the poor rely on.

For Oscar Porras, he'll be hit with a triple-whammy if the Brown budget is approved. The unemployed community-college student will see his tuition go up $10 per unit and his sales and car registration taxes remain high.

"Why is it always going to be the lower-income people, the middle-income people that have to come up with the largest share of California's taxes?" said Porras.

While saving $20 million is small change when compared to the $26-billion deficit, the cell-phone order is seen as a pitch to voters to show them that the state government is cutting all it can before asking them to approve the extension of the temporary tax hikes.