What's not a surprise? The California legislature missed the deadline to pass the state budget. But what's an unpleasant surprise? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to expedite the process by cutting state employee wages until they do so.
In a preposterous executive order issued last Thursday, the governor slashed the pay of roughly 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour. The fact that this isn't a permanent cut, as Schwarzenegger plans to fully reimburse workers once a budget compromise has been reached, might be considered good news upon cursory examination. But regardless of how it's viewed, it's a shady and shoddy political move: The cut to workers' pay is not actually an effort to resolve the state budget crisis but rather an incentive for legislators to move faster.
But getting the state out of its nearly $17 billion deficit and getting the overdue budget passed should not involve using innocent workers as pawns. There are real-life consequences to the governor's inconsiderate decision.
Those who are making the California minimum wage will see their paychecks decrease by $1.45 an hour. While that may seem like a small sum, the loss will accrue and might be enough to prevent people from putting food on the table and might cause families to lose housing. They may be compensated for their lost pay eventually, but it may be too late then. There's also no telling how long it will take for this to happen.
University of California officials have stated that they would try to keep the pay rate for UC employees the same. That's a promise that must be kept amidst the nonsense.
Reducing state employee wages is not a logical approach to California's financial crunch. Maybe holding the legislators' salaries hostage will be more effective.