Crime & Justice

State Controller still refuses to cut state workers pay

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A state appeals court today upheld Governor Schwarzenegger’s authority to cut state workers pay when lawmakers fail to pass a budget on time. That’s twice now that a court has backed the governor. But the guy who signs those pay checks still says he won’t go along.

The governor says without a budget, he’s compelled to pay most state workers no more than the federal minimum wage $7.25 an hour. The state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal agrees, as did a lower court.

But Controller John Chiang says neither court resolved this issue: whether he’s excused from complying with a pay cut if the state’s payroll system can’t accomplish the task without violating labor laws.

Chiang said “the governor well understands — because his office has been working with my office for the past three years — that we’re putting in place a new system that can pay minimum wage properly and legally in 2012. He (Schwarzenegger) knows that we can’t do it at this time, so he’s only exposing the state to extraordinary risk.”

Any wage cut to state workers would have to be paid back once lawmakers pass a budget. Chiang says the state government doesn’t have the computer technology to pay them back quickly. He says the delay would violate federal labor laws — and cost the state billions in fines.

Chiang is considering an appeal of the ruling to the California Supreme Court — or maybe a new lawsuit.