Who’s watching the store?

I see where Governor Ahnold has ordered all state employees to take two unpaid days off every month.  I’ll not weigh you down with the usual assortment of how hard state employees work  jokes.   This is no joke.

California is mired in a budget shortfall of something between two dollars and two trillion dollars.  The actual amount depends on who you ask and where their political flag is planted.  Our part-time legislature (yes, I know they get paid for a full time job) has been stymied by the misbegotten two-thirds requirement for passing a budget.  If it had been up to the majority of simple Democrats…oops, sorry about the misplaced modifier, we would have had a budget and raised taxes on Ahnold’s Hollywood and Silicon Valley friends to balance it…with a few teachers thrown on the political bonfire just to balance things a bit.

But Republicans, ever the guardians of taxpayer dollars (except for Iraq, Wall Street bailouts and protection of an auto industry that deserves to be sent to the scrap heap) insist on no new taxes.  Their balancing act focuses on the elimination of all expenditures other than police, prisons, and just enough lethal drugs to do away with anyone convicted of an offense greater than overtime parking.

We taxpayers seem to be numbed by the experience.  We think  “this is so awful that someone is bound to fix it before we all sink into ocean off  Zuma Beach.  Surely they will.”   There have been few marches to Sacramento.  No mass mailings to the guardians under the Golden Dome.  No bringing the phone company to its knees by an avalanche of calls to our elected representatives.  A lot of “woe is me” but not much action.  Quick, name the two people in Sacramento that represent your district.  See what I mean?

Ahnold’s directive of two days off for 238,000 state employees will save a bit over a billion dollars through June, or the amount of money spent on morning coffee in both houses of the legislature.  Now I don’t have a serious objection to the two days off each month.  What I do question is the method of implementation.  Obviously, delaying the passage of the budget for three months beyond the constitutional due date wasn’t enough time to figure this out.

Employees will be furloughed on the first and third Fridays of the month.  That means that the lights will be out at the DMV,  Caltrans will take more than the usual decade to complete a project, and unemployment case workers will be talking to themselves.  You’ll still be getting a speeding ticket from the CHP since they have a “no furlough” contract…and a gun.

Fortunately, prison guards, who also have guns and the world’s best union, will be able to stagger their furlough schedule.  At least someone was bright enough to figure that the inmates would take advantage of no one being at the office on Fridays.

I wonder why the same staggered schedule couldn’t have been applied to all state employees.  Maybe it’s because they don’t have guns.  Maybe because it isn’t really going to happen.  Maybe the whole thing is just Ahnold’s attempt to get our attention.  Or, maybe it’s his way of saying “if you don’t fix it, I’ll be back.”


3 Responses to “Who’s watching the store?”

  1. 1 Harry Levin January 30, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Maybe the legislature should be sequestered without pay and bathroom privliges until they come up with a budget. If it means highr taxes-so be it. If it means fewer services-so be it. No matter what, there is no excuse for being 3 or so months overdue in passing a workable budget.


  2. 2 Kenley Neufeld January 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    In all honesty, the legislature DID come up with a budget last month but the Governor refused to sign it. From what I hear, things are coming closer together with the Democrats agreeing to some spending caps and the Repulicans agreeing to some new taxes. That’s what will need to happen a bit more – coming to the middle.

    All I know is that where I work (Santa Barbara City College), the staff are taking a 5-day furlough, managers are taking a 2% pay cut, and the faculty are voting on the pay cut next week.

    I have a job for which I am thankful, but definitely not an ideal situation. People will be going hungry in this State if the budget doesn’t get resolved soon.


  3. 3 Ojaidon January 31, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Check out today’s (Saturday) LA Times, the front page story about how difficult it is to reduce the state government work force. The private sector should have these kinds of protections for its employees as well, not to mention the retirement and health benefits. We need a civil service for private employees.


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