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Arnold Muscles Up

With California's budget now 38 days overdue, Gov. Schwarzenegger is about to put some heavy pressure on the Legislature to get off its pinstriped hindquarters.

The Sacramento Bee is reporting on its web site that the Barbarian intends to sign an executive order to cut pay for state workers to $6.55 an hour the federal minimum wage until a budget is passed for the fiscal year that began July 1. Under the constitution, the budget was due June 15.

The order comes as state government, facing the prospect of running out of money to pay its bills in September, is about to go into the credit markets to borrow $10 billion. Unless a budget is in place, the state will be forced to pay considerably higher costs for borrowing the money. The salary savings from slashing the pay of more than 200,000 state workers would presumably be used to ease the cash flow squeeze. (A full report on the machinations involved in the $10 billion transaction, plus an update on budget negotiations, is in the Capitol Letters column in the print edition of the Independent, on the stands tomorrow, July 24).

According to the Bee report, the governor's executive order states that the delayed and stalemated budget means there is "a real and substantial risk" that the state won't be able to pay its bills. The order also says that the move complies with a 2003 state Supreme Court ruling. Workers would be paid their full salaries after a budget is signed, according to the report.

As a political matter, such a move would ignite outrage by state employees, many represented by unions, and put considerable heat on lawmakers and the governor to come to some early compromise solution for the budget mess. Locally, the biggest state employer is UCSB, which has approximately 10,000 workers (full disclosure: including me).

Update 10:10 p.m. A few hours after the Bee broke the story, state Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, announced that he would not carry out the pay cut order if the governor signs it; Chiang's duties include administering the state payroll. A standoff between the Republican and Democratic officeholders would have a predictable effect: more work for lawyers. The Los Angeles Times has more details, including the first union denunciations of Gov. Trasker.

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