Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has threatened to pay California state employees the federal minimum wage, $6.55 an hour, until state legislatures can deliver a legislative solution to the states $15.2 billion budget deficit.
As a state we pride ourselves on having a minimum wage that we feel better reflects the financial hardships one encounters in todays market. Why the governor should choose to renege on that promise to workers, albeit temporarily, is an interesting question.
Such action would affect roughly 200,000 state workers, taking away $1.45 an hour from employees currently working for the California minimum wage and further reducing the wages of employees who make more.
There are a number of reasons the governor should not take such actions in dealing with the budget crisis. Foremost, an executive order to slash worker wages would simply be a political move that would hurt state employees who are innocent bystanders in the fight to pass a budget solution.
Schwarzeneggers office has said that state workers would receive back pay once the state legislature passed a budget plan.
Thus, the move to cut workers pay would not be an effort to actually save the state money in the long run, but rather would be a political move intended to get legislators to work faster.
Overall, this plan is unfair to state workers, who not only have nothing to do with passing a state budget, but also cannot help the state budget issue since they are not legislators.
The governors threatened executive order would terminate contracts with about 20,000 temporary state workers, interns and contractors statewide along with putting a temporary ban on almost all overtime.
In essence, the governors order would take 20,000 jobs away from Californians and the Californian economy. Banning overtime would also take away much needed income from workers who often rely on additional hours to pay their rent and utility bills.
Maybe the governor should consider paying the legislators and their staffs in Sacramento minimum wage, or nothing at all, until they manage to cobble together the state budget. Maybe if the lawmakers had their own pocketbooks impacted by the situations, they would be more motivated to work out a compromise.
The draft of the executive order also indicated that the state would not be allowed to hire any new employees until the legislature was able to submit a budget to the governors office.
The state of the American economy is far from healthy. Each day we hear analysts warn of a looming recession tied to the housing crisis. The situation is no better in California, where we face the same issues as the rest of the nation.
Rather than helping this situation, the governor has proposed a plan that would take away much needed income from California state employees and the Californian economy as a whole.
Money that the state would take away from employees is money that employees could spend in the California market, and cutting jobs of temporary workers would take around 20,000 people out of jobs and put them on the street looking for new jobs in an already burdened job market.
If the governor wants to get legislators to truly work faster, he should cut their wages, not the wages of state employees who can barely stay above the poverty line while being paid the California minimum wage.