Pay cuts begin for 200,000 state workers

August 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's budget crisis is about to become very personal for over 200,000 state employees. Their next paychecks will reflect a pay cut of nearly 5 percent, the result of a furlough imposed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The pay cuts were announced with advanced warning. But it was still tough, and even surprising for many state workers who opened their checks Wednesday to see what slashing salaries by nearly 5 percent really means.

"My plans are to move, get a smaller place and pay less rent," said state worker Yvette Wilson.

The pay cuts affect about 217,000 state workers throughout California: 19 public employee unions agreed to it for one year. In exchange, they get one extra day a month off.

For the 11,000 engineers in two bargaining units that didn't agree, the furloughs and pay cuts were forced on them.

Governor Brown wants to save $850 million to help close a $16-billion deficit.

"State government workers are not immune to the same types of pressures that the private sector is," said H.D. Palmer, California Finance Department spokesperson. "Rather than going through a layoff situation, the agreement was to have individuals either agree to or have forced upon them one day of month unpaid leave a month."

At one farmer's market near the Capitol, vendors worry that state workers will buy less from them.

Cheesemaker Tim Pedrozo has seen sales dip 25 percent over the last 18 months. He's bracing for it to get worse as his customers see smaller paychecks.

"It's a struggle. It's a struggle for all these vendors who come," said Tim Pedrozo, Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company. "And if we don't make enough money, then we're not going to come back."

After looking at his first paycheck reflecting the 5-percent cut, Issac Richardson is already spending less for lunch.

"These only cost two for 50 cents. Then I'm going to go over and get this taco plate. It's like $4.04. Beans, rice and a taco," said Richardson.

While many state workers are changing lifestyles to live with the pay cuts, some staffers working for lawmakers got as much as a 5-percent raise over the last several months, even the ones making six-figure salaries.


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