State Workers Protest Plan to Cut Salaries

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wearing purple t-shirts and carrying signs, several hundred Service Employee International Union Members marched outside the state Capitol…Cecelia Terengo  works with the Victims Compensation Program… She says it’s “crazy” to cut workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage of six-fifty-five an hour. 

 “$6.55 is just unacceptable… You can’t ask people to do any more than what they’re doing.  And the Governor and legislature have not done their job…” 

The Schwarzenegger Administration is preparing an executive order that officials say the Governor could sign as early as Monday.  It would not only cut some 200-thousand workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage but also halt hiring, prohibit most overtime, and terminate seasonal and temporary employees.  H.D. Palmer with the State Department of Finance says cutting salaries is the way to come up with necessary cash.  He says the longer the budget impasse drags on—the more costly it will be to go to the credit markets for loans. 

“Right now under our projections we are not going to have adequate cash reserves on hand in September on any given day where we are not able to meet our obligations. That in the Governor’s view is unthinkable.” 

Palmer denies that this is a political ploy—he says it’s something the Governor is considering as a way to have cash on hand. But Democratic leaders said this proposal caught them by surprise.  Dan Schnur is the newly named Director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at U-S-C.  He says it’s a way to push lawmakers to move aggressively on budget negotiations. 

 “It’s the sort of thing that catches the attention of the public, catches the attention of the media, and so by doing something like this it’s a potential point of leverage to get the members to move forward a bit more quickly.” 

The plan already has a roadblock: State Controller John Chiang says he will not implement the order and will continue to pay state workers’ salaries.