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Commentary: Minimum Wage for State Workers Hurts More Than Helps

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 16, 2010
State employee wages have already been depleted by furloughs. Many are living on the brink. They’ve exhausted their savings and their ability to borrow.
So what’s the point of slashing their pay to the federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour? It would not do a single thing to reduce the state’s staggering deficit.
Eventually state employees would have to be repaid in full. If their unions sue – a virtual certainty – and win, the state would have to repay with interest and penalties, adding to California’s fiscal distress.
Finally there’s this. After 17 months of brutal furloughs, there’s been no outpouring of support for state workers, especially from the private sector, where job losses and wage cuts have been even more brutal.
But should the minimum wage threat play out, wait for the inevitable fall out – stories on the evening news about nurses at state hospitals and rangers at state parks unable to pay their rent or feed their families.
The governor may actually succeed in doing what public employee union bosses have failed to do: create a groundswell of public sympathy for state employees.
So, enough already. Governor, legislators – stop making state workers pawns in your dangerous game. Give California a budget.

Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.
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