Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced through the Department of Personnel Administration that he will cut the pay of most state employees to minimum wage, $7.25 per hour for this month. The state government stated that this is being done in order to balance its budget in lieu of some other devastating choices that could have been made to balance the budget. Other options that apparently were considered included eliminating most health care services and releasing most criminals from the state prison system.
The first thing I thought when I heard this was that it was a publicity stunt. I know, I’m shocked sometimes at my own cynicism. Why would Arnold ever do a publicity stunt? For years, we’ve heard how the state budget was in tatters. I remember the same basic lines about eliminating health care and permitting all criminals loose on the street before. I guess that they had to edit out the part about shutting down schools since it is July, and most schools are shut down anyway. So last week, we find out that California has enough employees so that it is able to quickly paint over an American flag (read about it here.) which induced some type of apoplectic rush of engagement among the paint crew working for the state. And now state government releases a statement reducing employee pay.
Those employees whose unions had negotiated contracts will be exempt from the pay cuts, and others who are protected under federal guidelines (whatever that means) will also not find any reduction in pay. Everyone else, including salary workers, will be working for much less than they used to be. But wait a moment. It turns out that under a court ruling, employee pay is permitted to be reduced temporarily until a budget has been passed. So, this is merely a gesture to try to force the legislature to pass a new budget in a timely manner. Once that happens, then every worker goes back to their old pay levels, and more gray paint can be purchased.
I would think that Arnold would find a more effective pressure point than this. Maybe he could announce that he will lay off every state police officer and, therefore, will shut down every state road to maintain public safety. Now there’s a publicity stunt that the Terminator would love.