California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has started the 2010-2011 fiscal year off right, with a state appeals court ruling yesterday that allows him to proceed with his plan to cut state workers' pay to the federal minimum wage until the state has a signed budget.
The ruling comes in a suit Schwarzenegger filed in 2008, during another delay in passing a budget, when state Comptroller John Chiang ignored his order to cease payments (beyond the federal minimum) to about 200,000 state workers. Chiang is now using the punch card defense, arguing that the minimum wage can't be implemented because of the state's antiquated payroll software.
The reduction would leave state workers making about $15,000 per year. Under normal circumstances, the average state worker makes $65,000 per year—far more than the state's private sector workers. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita personal income in California was $42,325 in 2009. (Private sector pay in the state has also, in contrast to state worker compensation, been falling throughout the recession: In 2008 per capita income was $43,852.)
Jon "Flash Report" Fleischman interviews Lynelle Jolley, Communications Director at the Department of Personnel Administration:
FLASH: Who does this effect?
JOLLEY: Virtually the entire executive branch of State government, except for those represented by unions that recently struck bargaining agreements with the Administration that make major pension concessions in exchange for continuous appropriation of their payroll. That appropriation ensures they will receive normal wages even when the budget is late, during the time their contracts are in effect.
FLASH: When does it go into effect?
JOLLEY: It covers the July pay period, which started today. Paychecks for this pay period are issued at the end of the month.
And if you pride yourself on your dedication to constitutional arcana, read the comment on Flash's story and consider your ass kicked for the day. A state worker argues that he should in fact not be getting paid at all, because the 10th Amendment denies the federal government authority over what minimum wage state governments have to pay their workers. That's dedication, people.