As millions of cell phone subscribers considered the exciting option of signing up for an iPhone on Verizon Wireless' network Tuesday, California government employees for their part were hit with the news that their work-related cell phones would be rescinded as Governor Jerry Brown embarks on his budget-slashing odyssey.
The cell-phone mandate -- in the form of the governor's very first executive order -- aims to slice the number of cell phones that state employees use by half to 48,000.
That would mean that a fifth of all of California's employees would have government-issued cell phones -- down from 40 percent.
The governor's office estimates that the cut will save the state at least $20 million a year.
Brown said he was still shocked by the number of cell phones in use by the state's employees.
"It is difficult for me to believe that 40 percent of all state employees must be equipped with taxpayer-funded cell phones," he said in a press statement." Some state employees, including department and agency executives who are required to be in touch 24 hours a day and seven days a week, may need cell phones, but the current number of phones out there is astounding."
The governor said that the goal is to cut the number of phones in half by June 1, but that goal might be stymied by existing contracts. He does not want to incur more fees by triggering early-termination fees.
The governor's statement did not give any specific criteria about which governmental functions would justify the use of a cell-phone. He simply said that each department and agency must justify its employees' use of the phones.
Official records show that Verizon Wireless and Sprint are the state's vendors.