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Arnold Schwarzenegger Threatens Minimum Wage for State Workers

States Struggling: Budget Crises Lead to Desperate Measures

If you thought your wallet was feeling light, it's not just you — states are feeling the budget crunch just as hard — with unique ways to manage the money meltdown.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has just threatened to pay state employees federal minimum wage in an effort to push lawmakers to agree on a budget. Even though minimum wage hikes up today, it would still mean thousands of workers would only take home $6.55 an hour (which is still $1.45 an hour less than CA's minimum wage.)

The budget stall comes as Republicans and Democrats battle to bridge the $15.2 billion budget shortfall California is facing. Republicans want to deal with money crisis through cuts, Democrats are angling for more taxes. Schwarzenegger says he won't sign a budget unless it contains improvements like a rainy day fund to help the state through tough times. Hmm. Just like we're supposed to have at home!

Also in the category of, "Governments! They're just like us!" Gas! Though consumers have been concerned about the price of fuel for months, state budgets — especially for driving heavy departments, like the police — are way overdrawn on fuel bills. To see how cops have to carpool,


In Montana, where the Highway Patrol sometimes has to drive up to 100 miles to answer a call in their fuel inefficient Crown Victorias (a big ol' 15 m.p.g) they've busted their budget by $340,000 in gas bills alone. Where's the money coming from? The personnel budget. No new cops 'til the tanks get filled.

Over in New Mexico, they're in similar straits, and are waiting for the governor to call a special legislative session to get their gas card paid off. They're trying to though! In addition to carpooling whenever they can, one Lieutenant says, "we have asked officers to shop around and know where the cheapest gas is to buy." Shopping for gas — that won't take time out of the "keeping us safe" part of the day or anything.

Nevada is $1 million dollars over budget on gas. Their solution is getting officers to drive less. So less patrolling, more speed-trapping. If you're headed through the Silver State, watch for smokies under the overpasses — they'll be sitting there, saving fuel.

Are any of these state measures to save, smart? What's the solution when states are as pinched as taxpayers — the same ones who give the states money to begin with?


Join The Conversation
stephley stephley 8 years
But this time Mina, I'm show they're going to let You represent Them. I'm sure the costs of court fights over Ahnold's plan, and time and services lost to protests, will take a healthy bite out of any savings. It's a bad idea.
Mina-Xue Mina-Xue 8 years
State employees get paid squat. I am one. Its the LEGISLATORS that should take it for the team.
stephley stephley 8 years
I'd gladly contribute more to health, education and environment - I support the whole 'we're all in this together' idea of united states.
cine_lover cine_lover 8 years
They are not reasonably asked to do anything. Taxes are not an option, that is called charity. With taxes these people are TOLD to share their wealth in programs that they might not agree with. I am sure if you would like to donate more of your money to tax programs the state would be glad to take it steph.
stephley stephley 8 years
That's the sole motivation and plan of the opposition - Band-aids and taxes? No valid claims or concerns on their part? No recognition that the state's citizens are individually struggling with gas prices and the slumping economy as well? No recognition that state worker salaries have not kept up with inflation in the past 4 years salaries 12%, inflation 15%)? No tax loopholes that might be hurting the state that could reasonably be closed? No corporations or wealthy families who might reasonably be asked to share a little of their state-encouraged bounty with the rest of the state (much like the Native American tribes were encouraged to share)?
cine_lover cine_lover 8 years
It is hard to clean up a mess when your opposition does not want to actually fix any problems, they just want to put a bandage on it by raising taxes.
stephley stephley 8 years
Gas prices do fluctuate, but anyone running a state should have been smart enough to realize that they shoot up during times of crisis in the Middle East - like a war or two - and started planning accordingly at the very least 9 months ago. And gas guzzling state cars that have had to be replaced anyway should have been replaced by fuel efficient models all along. Ahnold doesn't take a salary, but he's been boosting his staff's salaries since he took office. His top person makes $175,000 - Gray Davis' made $137,000. How is it leadership to hold the paychecks of low level government workers (who are voters and state citizens) hostage until the legislature (who make $116,000 and up) agrees to cut services to voters and state citizens? Maybe he should stop posturing himself for a Cabinet position and pay attention to the mess he promised to clean up.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Let me clarify again. Sorry, I am just everywhere today. I was not saying cut his pay. I just think the people who will be getting min wage pay are the people who live pay check to paycheck, underpaid, and just surviving. I think they will be hit hardest, not legislative people or even the governor. I was thinking his salary could be used to fund the full paychecks with the help of min wage to create the same pay they would get with the contract in place. The budget is over more than $340,000 in gas costs alone. To help cover its expenses, the agency has dipped into its personnel budget. Its just band aid after band aid. How should they really solve the problem? Yes, some of the increase is due to salaries but some is due to gas. Should they put less highway patrol and police officers on the street? Maybe they ask the community to clean up instead the city to do so.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
I'm sorry, I thought you meant that if the regular employees were being punished, he should be, too. I think if he wants to cut paychecks to motivate the legislature, he should cut their pay.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Exactly my point torgleson, it would help the people who need it but I doubt it would be done. Hopefully, they can make a decision and people can be paid on time. B/c if they don't get paid doesn't mean the bill collectors, mortgage or the landlord will wait.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Not sure taking his salary would impact him at all...
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Could the gov use his salary to pay some of the employees. If the state employees get min wage will the governor also get min wage.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
as a state employee, we dont get as regular a pay increase per year as everyone thinks, in fact My pay is piddly compared to what people are getting in my same position in private companies.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
This is completely unfair. How about just reducing the pay of the legislators?!
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Agreed, UnDave. The state employees shouldn't be penalized like this (even temporarily, as the article states) because the actual legislators can't agree. Some people do depend on their full paycheck coming to them when it's supposed to.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I like the idea of reducing state employees wages unless a budget is set, but I would say just reduce the politician's wages until the budget is set.
haelmore haelmore 8 years
Gas costs are unpredictable, and this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. If states didn't overspend and created balanced budgets (is that really so much to ask?) rainy-day funds could be available. Efforts to curb government gas consumption are, at this point, band-aid measures. Governments should be reducing spending across the board.
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