Budget Follies: Schwarzenegger Tries to Gut State Workers

Once you start with the premise that California’s a mess, everything acquires a certain clarity. Take today’s news that the state Controller John Chiang is asserting constitutional authority over the governor when it comes to issuing paychecks to state employees. We know what you’re thinking: huh? But put it through the California-as-70s-disaster-movie filter, and things start to make a little more sense. See, the state faces a $15 billion deficit, and the Democrats want to raise taxes to pay the bills. Schwarzenegger disagrees; in fact, he wants to borrow against future state lottery revenue instead. Seriously, that’s his idea of mature fiscal planning. We know it sounds like we’re in one of his movies, where a mad scientist lurches from his wheelchair and howls, “Mein fuhrer! I can valk! Undt borrow against ze suckers who play ze gambling at ze liquor stores!” But no, he means it. And just to prove how serious he is, Schwarzenegger is trying to force the Democrats’ hand by cutting the salaries of state workers to minimum wage as long as state legislators are fighting over the budget. Nice, huh? Ah, but enter Democratic Controller John Chiang, who claims he’s the guy who has the constitutional authority to determine wages during budget crises. Check and mate, governor! Unless, of course, the courts say otherwise.

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