Minimum Wage could be a dangerous game for the Governor

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

My first reaction to the leak that Schwarzenegger might sign an executive order cutting state workers’ pay: this wakes folks up around the state, puts much-needed attention on the budget problem, and prepares the public for the difficult changes — a tax hike that Republicans will hate and a rainy day fund or spending restraint that is not the Democrats’ cup of tea — that may be part of the final budget agreement.

My day 2 reaction: This is a dangerous game the governor is playing. Here’s one potential problem. Schwarzenegger had received some support from the big state workers’ union, SEIU Local 1000, for his suggestion to borrow against the future revenues of a modernized lottery. But now he’s scared those members. He could be risking that support. And more broadly, SEIU has been helpful to the governor.

SEIU’s international president backed his health care proposal, and the California board has been debating whether to back the governor’s redistricting initiative. I wouldn’t expect the union to reverse its position on either issue out of anger about this possible executive order. But it clearly strains a relationship between SEIU and Schwarzenegger that was helpful to the governor.

It’s a decent bet that Schwarzenegger retreats and doesn’t sign this executive order at all.

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