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D-Day for state budget approaches

July 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
State workers made a last ditch effort to stop Governor Schwarzenegger from taking a promised step to cut workers' salary and order layoffs of 22,000 part-time, seasonal and student employees. Amber Carlson is a part-time DMV worker who will lose her job immediately if the order is signed.

"I am nervous," Carlson said. "I've been nervous since last week when I first heard about it. I mean, how are you supposed to go through your day, when you don't know if you're going to have a job."

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With California in a cash crunch, the Governor's Office said Schwarzenegger will make good on the threat and sign the executive order within the next 24 hours because there is still no budget in place.

The pay cut to 200,000 state workers, plus the layoffs, would save the state a billion dollars per month.

"Tomorrow is the first day of the August pay period," said the governor's Press Secretary Aaron McLear. "That's the day the governor needs to take action to start realizing some savings, so we have enough cash to pay our bills."

It is unclear how long state workers will have to make the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour.

However, the month-long budget impasse suggests it could be a while.

"If we have to be here until the state goes into bankruptcy and the Republicans are going to cause that to happen, that's fine," said Sen. President Don Perata.

State Controller John Chiang has said he would defy the governor's order and pay full wages anyway because it is his duty.

However, labor law experts say a Davis v. White California Supreme Court decision in 2003 does support the governor.

"The state workers will be paid eventually. But it obviously seems unfair to bear the brunt of this now, but he does have the legal authority to do that," said McGeorge School of Law professor Miriam Cherry, J.D.

Despite that, the counsel for the state Legislature has advised lawmakers that the governor is on shaky ground, and many Democrats are still promising a battle over those pay cuts.

Union sources said they are preparing to take legal action against the governor as early as Friday, asking the court to stop the order from taking place.

 

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