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Crowds protest state pay cuts

July 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, (R) California, could sign an executive order to slash the pay of more than 200,000 state workers as early as Monday.The plan would put state workers at the federal minimum wage until a budget is passed. "I'm mad! I'm very mad! I'm hurt he would even think about that. How can I live on $6.55 an hour?" said Yolanda Villanueva, State Vehicle Inspector.

The proposed pay cut would take state worker wages well below the state minimum wage of $8.00 an hour.

While the draft plan exempts people considered in critical jobs, it would apply to such positions as bridge inspectors, unemployment check processors and DMV clerks.

Protestors think the Governor's move is a political ploy to force lawmakers to agree on a state budget, which is now almost a month late.

"We're just pawn pieces to him. This is shameful that he can't get his job done without using us as chess pieces. He should be really embarrassed," said Claudia Gambaro, State Biologist.

The state is running out of cash, and the pay cut would allow the state to defer paying about a billion dollars a month.

"It's not something that's popular. It's not something he wants to do. But he has a duty to make sure we don't run out of cash. And that's why we're looking at a number of different options to make sure the state to stay solvent," Aaron McLear, Governor's Press Secretary.

But state workers are saying they can't put off paying their own bills while the state pays them minimum wage.

State Controller John Chiang says he is ready to defy the Governor's executive order and issue those pay checks anyway.

"There is no court case that indicates that I need to pay minimum wage. And I will not subject the employees, the public servants of California to partial wages," said John Chiang, (D) State Controller.

The Governor says a 2003 California Supreme Court decision allows him to take cut pay when a state budget has not been enacted. However, John Chiang is the one who signs state worker checks.

 

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