Monday, February 28, 2011 – 09:50 a.m.

Where are San Bernadino County’s budget cuts?

It’s March already, which means two-thirds of the current fiscal year has slipped away, with still no meaningful reductions other than a hiring freeze.

Amazing.

Even action to achieve up to $2 million in annual savings by yanking needless take-home cars seems to have quietly drifted off into the political abyss.

After all, politicians hate pissing people off, and for most of the board of supervisors, who continue to walk around in fear, they would rather not.

This leaves only one logical conclusion. The employees, will once again this year, be offered the take the cuts or face layoffs question.

A question that is getting old.

Since there is no salary or benefit increases to concede this time around. One can expect proposed reductions, especially in the area of retirement.

All but one county union, that being the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA), was smoked into giving up their negotiated salary and benefit increases last year.

The county’s largest union, the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA), gave up everything plus some. Yes SBPEA had the gall to place economic triggers inside the revised deal that would give back some of what employees had given up, in the event county revenues improved over the next two years.

Can you say “pig in a poke”?

The SBPEA management knew there would be no improvement in the county’s finances.

But it was a sham to get their members to buy off on a package of now permanent reductions.

If any union is going to sell its members down the river, it’s SBPEA. You see SBPEA needs the member count to pay those dues. And for a union like SBPEA, which routinely plunders its treasury, a sustained member count means maintaining dues and those high union staff salaries.

Now it’s time for SBPEA members to give up more.

You know what? It has to happen. Unless the union members vote for workforce reductions.

No matter how you look at it. Doing more with less, or doing less with less.

This has to happen. It’s a zero-sum proposition.

However, let’s once again revisit the standard of living concept.

California, which is punch drunk on raising taxes and fees, is a high cost of living state.

So once again I ask you. Is it better for all 19,000 employees to make significantly less next year, or cut 1,500 to 2,000 positions by layoff or attrition?

The county kind of blew the attrition game by being slow to enact the aforementioned hiring freeze.

Or was it a calculated maneuver?

Maybe San Bernardino County officials are in an “employee wages and benefits will be cut” mode, and this has always been the plan.

San Bernardino County’s labor unions are going to have to be bluntly honest with their members this time round by giving them a clear choice. Anything less will get them in trouble with their groups, as it did last year.

It’s a question coming to the mailbox of a San Bernardino County employee near you very soon!