Schwarzenegger Administration Sues Controller to Force Pay Cut Order

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Governor Schwarzenegger launched a legal battle Monday to enforce his executive order to cut the pay of state government workers. But the State Controller John Chiang has refused to issue checks that bring their wages down to $6.55 an hour. He says there's plenty of cash on hand. KPCC's Julie Small says now the Controller will have to defend that position in court.

Julie Small: Controller Chiang has said repeatedly that the governor's executive order to cut wages of nearly 200,000 state employees is "unnecessary" and "harmful." He's also said state payroll computers aren't up to the job of recalculating all those paychecks. Last week, the Department of Personnel presented Chiang with options to get the job done. The Controller wasn't impressed.

John Chiang: We had to do our due diligence to see if the governor's proposals actually did work. And unfortunately, we found they were severely underdeveloped and unworkable.

Small: Personnel took that as Chiang's final answer, and one it didn't like. The agency's Lynelle Jolly says the lawsuit the department filed in Sacramento Superior Court directs the Controller to comply with the California Supreme Court's 2003 decision in White-v-Davis.

Lynelle Jolly: In that case, the Court said that in the absence of a state budget, the state Controller lacks the authority to issue paychecks except to the extent provided by federal labor law.

Small: Some lawmakers have questioned why the Schwarzenegger Administration didn't enforce White-v-Davis when the budget's been late before - like last year. The governor says he's doing it now because the state faces a cash crunch. But Controller Chiang says California has enough cash to last through October.

John Chiang: I really now think the governor's doing this because he can't get the legislature to move on the budget. It's not a cash situation.

Small: Chiang says he's prepared to defend that belief in court.