In case you had not heard, because the state of California is running a huge deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, the salaries of public employees in California are now being reduced to the federal minimum wage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) is able to do this because of a court decision that allows this action when there is no fiscal year budget in place. Because the fiscal year has just begun as of July 1, there is obviously not a new budget that is on the table yet.
This episode should take the whole “pro-family” mantra that the Republican Party and completely throw it out of the window. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. If you multiply that by 40 hours/week, you get $290. If you multiply that by 52 weeks, you get a grand total of $15,080 in wages for a year. And this is before taxes, which would take around $3,000 away from that gross total.
This situation will obviously not last for a year, and to assume that would be engaging in hyperbole. However, there are other things that Gov. Schwarzenegger can do to facilitate the passing of a budget quicker and raise the revenue that is needed to prevent this sort of calamity in the future. He could start by either getting the Legislature, or average citizens by way of a initiative and petition, to eliminate the 2/3rds requirement necessary for the Legislature to pass a budget. I work in Missouri state government, and I can tell you that the only things that pass around here with a 2/3rds majority are the naming of roads and the granting of holidays to the Girl Scouts. This is not the 1950s, where you had more cooperative branches of government; every issue can become press a hot button on someone. You could also eliminate the cap on local property taxes that has been brought into existence by 1978’s Proposition 13. Because local governments have to be funded somehow, the burden for services has simply been shifted from cities to counties; counties to state government. By removing the cap, local governments will be able to raise the sort of revenue that will be needed to fund essential services and spare the state the burden of funding police departments and schools. The money has to be there to pay for these things, and the taxpayers will feel the pinch one way or another.
But of course, this path cannot be managed by someone who used to be able to wear the mantra of pragmatism. Now he has become nothing more than a West Coast version of a Bob Riley or a Mike Rounds. This is the Gov. Schwarzenegger that tried to foist some of the most anti-union laws upon California teachers in over a decade with his failed package of amendements in 2005. And he continues his assault on the workingman and workingwoman with this “cost-cutting measure”. It takes courage to tell the system that it, itself, is what is wrong, and to do something about it.
I guess that is a quality that this Governor lacks, and middle-class Californians will be the ones that will pay for it.