Governor Sues To Force Chiang To Pay Minimum Wage to State Workers
On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) filed a lawsuit to force Controller John Chiang (D) to pay hourly state employees the federal minimum wage until lawmakers implement a budget for the new fiscal year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Although the new fiscal year began on July 1, lawmakers have yet to reach agreement on a budget plan. Last week, Schwarzenegger ordered Chiang to reduce wages to $7.25 per hour for about 200,000 state workers. His administration argued that state law required the wage cuts in the absence of a budget to appropriate funds for payroll. Chiang said he would not comply with the order.
On Friday, an appeals court sided with Schwarzenegger, ruling that the governor has the authority to reduce wages without a budget in place. After the ruling, Chiang said he would file a new lawsuit to block the wage reduction.
However, the Schwarzenegger administration acted first by bringing legal action against Chiang (Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7).
The lawsuit, filed by the Department of Personnel Administration and DPA Director Debbie Endsley, seeks to force Chiang to comply with the governor's order before July 22, the cutoff date for the state to begin processing its July payroll (Smith, "The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 7/6).
Aaron McLear, spokesperson for the governor, said, "Since the controller continues to ignore court decisions, we must again ask the court to stop him from violating the law."
Hallye Jordan, spokesperson for Chiang, said the controller is reviewing the suit and still plans to take legal action to "protect Californians from the governor's reckless executive order" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7).
Benefits Protected, for Now
According to the Sacramento Bee, affected state workers will receive their first reduced paychecks on Aug. 1, assuming that lawmakers do not implement a budget by then.
Insurance benefits such as health, dental and vision cannot be reduced under current contracts for at least 90 days (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 7/7).
The governor's order to reduce payments "is great political theater, but it doesn't begin to address" the state's $19 billion budget deficit, a Stockton Record editorial states. It continues that Schwarzenegger is "making his budget attack not on the Legislature, but on state workers who have every right to expect their agreed-upon paychecks" (Stockton Record, 7/7).
Broadcast CoverageOn Tuesday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the governor's lawsuit against Chiang. The segment includes comments from Schwarzenegger spokesperson McLear (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/6). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.