State workers rally over missed budget deadline

June 30, 2010 6:25:49 PM PDT
Wednesday may have been the final day of full pay for most state workers for quite some time, because the state missed its budget deadline again.

The governor says starting Thursday, they get paid minimum wage until there is a budget.

On Wednesday, workers let lawmakers know just how they feel. Hundreds if not thousands of state workers rallied at the state capitol upset that the end of the fiscal year is here and a budget is not in place.

This means starting Thursday, they could be earning $7.25 an hour, which would be reflected in their paychecks in a month.

"Our governor and our legislature wants to look to us and give us minimum wage. Not even California minimum wage, federal minimum wage. That says we're less than the lowest worker in the state," Kevin Menager says.

"What that does to our people is every single state worker will be qualified to be on welfare," says Francisca Pass.

The governor's aides say minimum wage is the law absent a state budget and that it is not their fault lawmakers are slow to act on his proposals or alternatives.

The governor's press secretary Aaron McLear told ABC7, "The governor came out with his budget on time in January, on time in May. The legislature once again has failed now to produce a budget. The longer we wait, the more likely it is we're going to have to do layoffs and furloughs for state workers."

What is worse is the legislature's annual month-long summer recess is around the corner. Most lawmakers will be allowed to go home and be on-call while key members stay behind to hammer out an agreement that is probably still weeks, maybe months, away.

"The thought was people should go back to their districts and work there," says Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones of the budget committee. "I don't think it's a recess. I know members are going to be working, gathering input, and trying to reach a consensus."

Of course, State Controller John Chiang, who signs the checks, could defy the law as he has vowed to and give state workers full pay. Or, SEIU Local 1000, the state's largest public employee union, could agree to a new labor contract that gives them immunity from minimum wage pay. However, in return, state workers might have to make some concessions on pensions that the governor really wants.


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