By Jon Ortiz The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Sure as deadlocks follow budget talks, here’s a rumor that surfaces whenever California government suffers fiscal convulsions: The state is going to offer “golden handshakes.”

As the state lurches from crisis to crisis, the pressure grows for the bureaucracy to shed more employees. State law, civil service regulations and union contracts all dictate that the last workers hired are the first let go. That’s true even though they generally cost less money than their co-workers with more service time.

Golden handshakes get around that by giving those longtime, higher-paid workers an exit incentive such as a cash bonus or added service time that increases their retirement checks.

Usually the policy buzz builds when budget talks hit an impasse or some new report paints an even darker picture of the state’s finances – anything that raises the specter of layoffs.

This gossip has been bobbing up and down for about three years. But Democrat Jerry Brown’s election win last year gave the rumor even more buoyancy since state employee unions contributed both money and manpower to his gubernatorial campaign.

So, it’s no surprise that a state worker asked the president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 the burning question during a live webcast from Los Angeles last week: “Is there any truth to the golden handshake rumor that the governor may be considering?”

President Yvonne Walker’s quick response: “There’s no truth to it whatsoever, and I don’t see this governor offering it.”

The state is confronting a $15.4 billion deficit through the end of June 2012, and it doesn’t have the money for cash buyouts. Even if it did, Brown would be doling out dough to state workers for literally doing nothing, while programs for schools, the elderly and the infirm get cut. Talk about bad political optics.

Unconvinced? Here are some more reasons why it won’t happen.

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