State worker pay cut now a standoff

July 2, 2010

Both sides in Sacramento seem to be claiming victory on the issue of a temporary pay cut for state workers.

The courts ruled once again Friday in favor of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s right to pay state workers a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour until there is a new state budget agreement.

However, state Controller and Democrat John Chiang, who has repeatedly battled the governor on the issue, announced late Friday that he is in no hurry to implement the desired cuts. [LA Times]

Chiang, who controls the state’s payroll, said that such a widespread cut in salaries, even temporary, will not be easy because of the outdated state computer system and the technical issues involved.

“This is not a simple software problem,” Chiang said. “Reducing pay and then restoring it in a timely manner once a budget is enacted cannot be done without gross violations of law unless and until the state completes its overhaul of the state payroll system and payroll laws are changed. I will move quickly to ask the courts to definitively resolve the issue of whether our current payroll system is capable of complying with the minimum wage order.”

Chiang believes that if the pay cuts are not implemented properly, taxpayers could be exposed to “billions of dollars in fines and penalties” resulting from violations of state and federal labor laws.

The governor’s office dismissed the claim as “absurd.”

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Is this the same Schwarzenegger who insisted five counties hold two special elections to replace Maldonado at a cost of between 1/2 and one million dollars for EACH county, instead of tying the election in with the November general election? And of course statistics just happen to show that forcing this cost on the counties would benefit Schwarzenegger’s friend Blakeslee over Laird. Then Schwarzenegger ignores requests to present his budget in a timely manner, and instead AGAIN waits until the last minute. This is just another sleazy political move to protect his party and the corporate world, particularly big oil from paying their fair share, no matter what the cost to lowly taxpayers. Changing the payroll system temporarily, and then having to catch up with wages after the budget is passed will obviously in the long run cost taxpayers more, not to mention the financial havoc it could place on families in the meantime. Perhaps though the thought that these families would have to borrow money to get by would mean additional revenue for his buddies in the banking world. You have to look at it from the perspective of what’s in it for big business because it’s their money that’s running the show.

Mary: It’s the unions that control the Legislature, and probably few with more clout than the state employees unions. I think the idea is for the unions to lean on their senators to pass a budget.

To be sure, we all have the right to vote in or out who we choose. But I’m of the opinion to believe what he says about the state computer system. Those programs are NOT as simple as one would hope. I believe he is a professional who would not make up stories to prove a point.

Also, if there is any truth to the prospect of fines and penalties if the pay is cut, It will cost far more, in the long run, than to pay the correct wages.

Disagree with the first paragraph.

Agree with the second paragraph. Alhough I point out that it is not about saving money. It is about not spending money we don’t have. And we don’t have any money until the Legislature passes the budget.

As an elected official, Chiang cannot be reprimanded for insubordination, or for incompetently running the payroll system that cannot change pay scales. There must be some way to hold him accountable for his transgressions before we de-elect him.