State workers protest possible pay cut

SACRAMENTO Because of the budget impasse, State Controller John Chiang has already said he will not pay some public schools, local governments and vendors beginning Thursday. Temporary minimum-wage pay seems unavoidable for state workers.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of state workers rallied at the state Capitol because they're upset the end of the fiscal year is here and a budget is not in place.

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

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

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

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

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

What's 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's probably weeks, maybe months, away.

"The thought was that people should go back to their districts and work there," said state Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), member of the Assembly 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's 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, but in return they would have to make some pension concessions that the governor really wants.

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