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Minimum Wage For State Workers And The Gubernatorial Race In California

Minimum Wage For State Workers And The Gubernatorial Race in California
State employees in California get a reprieve from the governor's minimum wage order. We'll talk about that with Sacramento Political Consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN (Host): A recent court ruling is giving state workers in California a bit of a sigh of relief. We’re joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Well, Governor Schwarzenegger asked a court, Leo, to force Controller John Chiang to reduce state worker paychecks to the federal minimum wage – like $7.25. How did Chiang win his contesting of this order?

LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): Well, he had a pretty good argument, apparently in the eyes of the court. And the argument was that the state’s antiquated computer system wasn’t capable of turning out a revised payroll that would phase down to minimum wage. And the fact that he said we can’t do it seemed persuasive in the eyes of the court. So the score has been kind of governor – two, Chiang – one. But Chiang got his victory in the last go around, so that puts him actually on top. The whole thing comes back for a hearing on the 26th and there’s going to be more discussion at that point. But in the meantime Chiang’s office is saying well, with this win we obviously can’t do it in July because it will be too late. And they’re saying we also won’t be able to do it in August. So the state workers may have actually gotten a respite until September and be hoping that they get a budget by that time.

BROWN: So state workers may not get hit in the pocketbook after all?

MCELROY: They may get a break this time around. Of course there are also a number of state workers who weren’t threatened anyway, because their unions have gone into revised deals with the governor to revise downward pension benefits and revise upward the amount the amount they kick-in on health plans. Governor’s trying to get all the bargaining unions to do that and saying if they sign onto that deal, they don’t have to worry about minimum wage.

BROWN: And of course is tied to the lack of a state budget nearly three weeks into the fiscal year. No spending plan. How are lawmakers trying to hash out a deal without the governor’s help?

MCELROY: Well, the lawmakers seem to feel they are doing better without the governor, then with the governor. Largely because neither party loves the governor very much right now. And so they’re working on it. Meantime, we’re seeing little demonstrations at the capital. There was one yesterday by the Republican’s protesting Democratic budget plans. But we’re seeing a lot more emotion than motion. And it’s the motion that we’re kind of watching for. There are reports that the Senate is probably the place where some kind of compromise is going to come out of. It’s unlikely to come out of the very, very partisan Assembly. But that the Senators, might, might somewhere down the line come up with something that they actually agree on.

BROWN: Care to guess on a possible date of an actual passage of a budget plan?

MCELROY: I think we’ll still be talking about minimum wage in September.

BROWN: Oh goodness. Well, let’s talk briefly about the gubernatorial race. The polls are tight between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. Is this surprising when you consider Brown still isn’t really doing anything to get his name out there?

MCELROY: I think it’s surprising everybody. I think the fact that the governor, the ex-governor, appears to have kind of taken a nap, is quite surprising. He’s left it up to the unions to do some attack ads on Whitman to keep her off balance. The other balancing thing is that Whitman herself may have been hurt by her ads. A – because the ads now seem to be a conflict with the one she did during the primary. And B – because they are a reminder she is spending so much money in this race and a lot of Californians don’t like that. So if Jerry Brown’s don’t do anything strategy keeps him in it this long, he might have a real surge coming when he finally starts advertising.

BROWN: Non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.