Gov. gets flack for high-paying appointments

January 21, 2009 6:50:33 PM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger took some flak Wednesday night in Sacramento. Even as he poor-mouths about the state budget, he made high-profile, high-paying political appointments. And that didn't well with state workers and watchdogs.

Democratic leaders have also made state appointments to high paying jobs as well, but the governor defends his latest move by saying that jobs are key to turning the state's economy around.

"We're heading towards a financial Armageddon. We have three weeks before we go off the cliff," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California.

Throughout the 77-day budget stalemate, Governor Schwarzenegger has warned California is running out of cash. Yet, he just appointed termed-out Democrat, Nicole Parra, to a brand new position to help create jobs in the Central Valley, where unemployment has been in the double digits. She'll make more than $128,000 a year.

"This is the one governor who has been to the valley numerous times and is very well versed in issues facing some of the poorest communities in our state," said Parra.

But critics, including state workers and taxpayer groups, say the hiring is irresponsible when the governor's own executive order is forcing state workers to take unpaid furloughs.

"This is evidence that many of our policy leaders are, on the one hand saying there's a severe budget crisis, but their actions don't reflect their words," said Jon Coupal, from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

High-paying appointments, including those on state boards, have been under fire recently as a place to appoint out-of-work politicians who've been termed out. When Governor Schwarzenegger took office, he promised to "blow up the boxes" that wasted taxpayer money, like state boards.

"It's amazing. He's supposed to be blowing up the boxes, not gift wrapping them. He certainly seems that he's been giving away a number of positions on a variety of different boards, and we're in a crisis," said State Senator Jeff Denham (R) of Merced.

The Governor also recently appointed Republican Greg Aghazarian to the Worker's Compensation Appeals Board with a salary of $128,109.

Republicans Bonnie Garcia and George Plescia went to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board with the same salary of $128,109.

And Democrat Carole Migden was appointed to the Integrated Waste Management Board with a salary of $132,178.

The Governor's aides say while major cuts are being made, it's his duty to fill board vacancies.

"He's saving the state million of dollars through his executive order, and his proposed budget is going to save billions -- about a 10 percent cut in size of the state government. He still has a responsibility to make sure state government functions," said Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

In recent news, State Controller John Chiang filed a brief in court hoping to stop the state worker furloughs. He says they're illegal.