CHP, CalFire Exempt From Pay Cut

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BUDGET DAY PLUS 35 -- As various state agencies continue to decide which workers would, and would not, be exempt from Governor Schwarzenegger's executive order suspending all but minimum wages for their work in August, there's now word that two departments are completely off limits.

Late Monday night, the governor's office confirmed that no employees of either the California Highway Patrol or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection would have their paychecks cut back... assuming Schwarzenegger's order ends up going into effect (something that was hotly debated yesterday).

"Employees with critical public safety roles, including all of CalFIRE and CHP, are exempt from the governor's executive order," said gubernatorial spokesman Aaron McLear by email.

Still unclear, however, is how many employees of another public safety entity -- the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- would be exempt from a minimum wage-only paycheck. The issue of prison employees remains unresolved... in part, after the federal court-appointed receiver for prison health care, Clark Kelso, suggested almost 90% of the department's 66,000 employees should be exempt... due to the critical nature of their jobs.

Kelso's statement drew a quick response last week from Schwarzenegger's top lawyer, Andrea Hoch, who wrote to Kelso that such a determination is "beyond your authority."

Nonetheless, the "who is and who isn't exempt" issue across all state agencies is important... because it has a real impact on whether the governor's payroll actions can actually save the state the money his advisers said it would, money he says is needed to keep from running out of cash.

[UPDATE: For more information, see new posting on "Schwarzenegger v. Chiang?"]

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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