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The Way to Discredit Government

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: University of California employees represented by the Union Coalition demonstrate in front of UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center to call on University of California executives take a pay cut instead of reducing services to patients, cutting employee hours and increasing student tuition on July 15, 2009 in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, California. As California continues to make history drastic cuts to state funds to get a handle on the state budget crises, union officials say that UC administrators have declined to give them budget information that shows reduced hours and services are needed. Pending reductions in work hours and services may affect as many as 150,000 public employees at all 10 University of California campuses. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday ordered that, with no prospect of a new state budget in sight, state workers will be paid only minimum wage.

    It's unlikely to happen.

    State Controller John Chiang, who signs state checks, has refused to implement previous orders from the governor. There's litigation about whether it can happen. And state workers would be entitled to back pay when a budget is signed.

    But if the governor fights to implement his order, the move will discredit government, and here's why.

    The state's payroll system -- like so many government payroll systems -- is hopelessly outdated. Chiang has said he can't make quick changes to the paychecks of state workers -- even if he wanted to. If a change were to be implemented, it would be a public relations disaster -- at least as much for the errors that would ensure as for the effect on workers.

    If you don't believe that, take a look back at what happened when the LA Unified School District -- one of California's largest governments -- changed its payroll a few years back.