The new contract, which must be ratified by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, undoes reforms that were put in place by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger aimed at curbing the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Specifically, Schwarzenegger imposed furlough days and refused to sign a new contract granting additional benefits.
Brown, who was elected with the help of $2 million in funding by the 30,000-member union, has campaigned relentlessly to extend a series of expired California taxes to close a $25 billion budget shortfall. He was elected on a platform of decreasing government waste and spending.
"Here's the irony: Jerry Brown said there is going to be a new sheriff in town. The sheriff is not standing up to the bad guys," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association. "The bad guys are the pub employee unions who do not believe there is a budget crisis in California."
Coupal told AOL News that guard salaries drive up the cost to incarcerate inmates, currently at a staggering $49,000 per inmate per year. The national average is $28,000.
State Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, told AOL News that Brown needs four Republican votes from the Legislature to approve the contract, and she doubts he will be successful.
"We have got to have pension reform; we cannot continue on this path," she said. "We have to think about the taxpayers."
Guards currently are allowed to save a percentage of their vacation for payout upon retirement. If all the senior-level employees retired now, the cost would be more than $600 million, according to California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
Specifically, the new contract gives prison guards the following perks:
- Eight weeks of vacation per year for new employees, with additional time upon gaining seniority.
- Ability to cash out an unlimited amount of accrued vacation time upon retirement, at their final pay scale.
- One hour of vacation time per month that will be donated to union reps so they can conduct union business during work hours. The number of hours available for use would be unlimited.
- Ten guards at each prison would be allowed to attend their annual union convention at state expense.
- Any guard who has a yearly doctor checkup will receive an additional $130 per pay period.
- Reduce or eliminate furlough days, which would cost taxpayers an additional $130 million within the next two years
Accumulated leave time currently is limited to 80 days for prison guards and most other state employees, though California Highway Patrol Officers can currently bank 102 days.
Employees who exceed the limit are supposed to work with their managers to schedule more time off, but that has proved unrealistic because the prisons must always be staffed, said Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley.
"It's virtually impossible for those employees to get time off," she said. "They're in this Catch-22 where they can't use the time off they have, so it's become impossible for them to not exceed the cap."
Brown's staff did not return calls to AOL News.
The contract gives guards more than eight weeks off work annually, including the unpaid leave, making it more likely they will bank time to be paid out on retirement, according to the legislative analysis.
Last year, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation paid out nearly $100 million in unused leave time. The analysis said a much larger bill could come due soon: More than one-third of the guards are more than 46 years old, and most qualify to retire at age 50.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.