Cough It Up: PA Budget Impasse, Part 4

Note:  This is part of a series of posts detailing the 2009 Pennsylvania budget impasse.  To see all posts in this series, click here.

Just read an article in The Patriot News about our legislators:

Taxpayers pay up to $33,445 a day to feed and house state lawmakers every day that House and Senate members are in Harrisburg waiting to vote on a budget. Lawmakers’ pay stopped on July 1 and will not resume until a budget is enacted. But per-diem checks, paid out of legislative reserve accounts, will continue to be issued.

Just a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania legislators were talking about how they’d have to “tighten up” and “be frugal” with their own personal budgets.  With over a million dollars every month in supplemental compensation, I don’t think the legislature knows the meaning of the word “frugal”.

Tomorrow is the one-week mark without a budget.  Beginning around July 17th, the spending power of state employees is going to vanish overnight.  How will the loss of 70,000 customers affect Giant?  Sheetz?  Hershey?  How about small business owners?  What’s going to happen when consumers with otherwise sterling credit begin defaulting on their mortgages, student loans, and car payments?

What happens to businesses, of course, pales in comparison to being told to come to work without a paycheck.

In 2006 we voted out a substantial chunk of our legislature for rushing through a late-night pay raise.  The legislators thought we’d forget, but we called their bluff.  It’s never too early to start organizing another shakeup.

22 thoughts on “Cough It Up: PA Budget Impasse, Part 4”

  1. Awesome, here, most regular state employees are wondering how they’re going to fill their gas tanks and pay for parking just so they CAN work, and the legislature is still gathering all the money they can for NOT EVEN DOING THEIR JOBS. This is ridiculous. Vote ’em all out…..AGAIN!

  2. This is a copy of a letter I sent to my local paper……

    Allow me to introduce myself. I am 1 of 69,000 State employees that faces a payless payday shortly. I spend my days working with clients who are typically referred to as some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians – Welfare recipients. My coworkers and I go into work each day and do our best to be positive and helpful even though we aren’t sure if we are going to be able to pay our mortgages or feed our children later this month. Many of us will have to become clients in our own offices before long.

    On July 2 we received our full paychecks. This was pay for hours worked in June. On July 17 we will receive approximately 70% of our usual pay. This is the last of what we earned in June. After that we have no idea when we will receive another paycheck. But yet we still go to work each and every day and do our jobs.

    County Assistance workers are not the only ones who aren’t going to get paid. Prison Guards, State Police, State Hospital Workers and Court Employees are among those who aren’t getting paid. Let’s not forget that none of these groups of people makes a lot of money to begin with.

    So who is being paid? Technically Legislators aren’t being paid either, HOWEVER, they can draw a per diem for every day they do “legislative work”. This counts weekends and holidays. Their staff is getting paid because they draw from a different pool of money. Welfare recipients continue to receive their benefits, prisoners continue to receive their “pay” and unemployed individuals continue to receive their unemployment. There are other groups getting paid but the vast majority of the State’s 80,000 employees are not getting paid.

    Now most people think that this doesn’t effect them if they aren’t State employees but think about this. Do you receive court ordered child support from a State employee? Do you rent a house/apartment to a State employee? Are you a car dealer, credit card company, utility company or mortgage company that does business with a State employee? What happens when the buying power of 69,000 people dries up overnight?

    The Governor has been crowing about how several financial institutions are offering no/low interest loans to help employees through. What he failed to mention was that these are like any other loan and a lot of people are not qualifying for the assistance. Additionally, why should anyone have to pay interest on a loan? We are going to work – we should be paid.

    There is currently a bill before the State House. It is called House Bill 1771. The passing of this bill would allow State workers to be paid for the month of July while the politicians work this budget nonsense out. My Rep, Nick Micarelli, is currently in Iraq but I called his office anyway. Someone has to be covering for him, right? The staffer who answered the phone was rude and couldn’t get me off the phone quick enough. While I thank you for your service Mr. Micarelli, I think you need to have a chat with your staffers. But then again, what do they (the staffers) care – they are getting paid.

    When will people care? Well, when it hits their pocketbooks, I guess. Like when these workers file their lawsuit under FLSA (Fair Labor Standard Act). It will be taxpayer money that will settle that suit. Like when companies already teetering on the edge because of the economy fold because 69,000 people have no money. Like when election day rolls around again and all the incumbents are out of a job.

  3. Just yesterday in the mail I received a letter from my representative to whom I had sent email requesting emergency legislation in lieu of a signed budget if they were so incapable of performing their duties that one still was not achieved. Her letter informed me of House Bill 1771 for emergency appropriations for the 30 day period following the June 30 close of the fiscal year so employees and vendors could be paid. I have not seen it discussed or passed other than in Theresa’s post above. I would love to know WHY it is not presented for vote. WHAT is the status of it. WHAT (or who) is holding it up? What’s the status and why aren’t they JUMPING on approving it as a sign to their employees that they are more than just chess pieces?

    Incidentally, my husband tried to enter his timecard (I don’t know if you use ORACLE or SAP HR) last Friday. It would not allow him to. This was for the period that ended July 3 and for the prior 2 weeks. He was unable to. Since I used to implement and support ORACLE, I would venture to say that’s because they have closed or are prepared to close the books for FY09 as soon as the payroll is run but have not opened the FY10 set of books and the accounting month for July. The timekeeper told him to call him back THIS Friday since they are “doing something to the system because of this budget thing”. I don’t have a high confidence level that without an approved timesheet to match his payroll record to when they run the payroll that pays on July 17 that he will even get a partial pay. This is so incredibly effed up!

    I will not vote for a SINGLE incumbent on the next election. This is an egregious breach of public trust.

  4. Here is the response I received in response to an email free consultation with a Labor Law Firm:

    Our opinion is that failure to pay “on time” is failure to pay — and constitutes an FLSA violation. But, because of the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution, you cannot sue the state “privately” for FLSA violations.
    Your remedy would be to have the U.S. Dept. of Labor sue for you. I suggest you contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wages and Hours Division (listed in the phone book) and make a complaint and request them to take action.
    There is a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit holding that a state’s failure to pass a budget does not get them a “free pass” to fail to pay its employees. In that case the court held the state liable for the FLSA violation. There is also Third Circuit authority that “late pay”
    is tantamount to “failure to pay.” Pennsylvania is embraced within the Third Circuit. I would also suggest that you not fail to report to work without taking appropriate leave because if you don’t work the state is not obligated to pay you — and so there would be no FLSA violation.

  5. I also am a State Employee, and I agree with the previous post, 100%, But you are missing the Big Picture, take the payless paydays, as our “over quota” Legislaters, (who by the way are not cutting their numbers), by passing the GOP sponsored S 850, there will be the elimination, not furlough of up six thousand (6000) State Jobs.
    Let’s face the facts our Senators and Representative do not care about us, they vote party lines, I will not vote for an incumbant.
    My Senator Rafferty does not even respond.
    By some Legislative thinking, the GOP running on “we will not raise taxes”, the key word being “we” as S 850 will cause school/property taxes to go up, but “we” did not raise them, think this will help them get re elected, not if any State Employee that can count to one, has anything to do with it.
    How will eliminating 6000 dollars help the PA recession?
    P.S.-Maybe there is still time for me to ask Mr. Boscov for a job, since “I”/”we” own half the company. Yes save the seven thousand Boscov jobs and cut six thousand from the State.
    In the GOP defending of S 850, they were ask twice by the same reporter “How many State jobs will be lost”? Twice looking like “Deer in the headlights”, perfectly danced around the question.
    GOP also quoted the Tax Amensty program is the same that New Jersey uses. New Jersey has the highest property taxes most likely in the world, and they are using them as an example.
    But New Jersey has a Budget.

  6. If someing is not done to reduce the spending we will be looking at a much worse situation in 3 years. I am a state employee, I am not getting paid. Everyone involved is only looking out for their own best intrest. The Unions want more employees to get more dues, the polititians want to go back to their districs and say they did something. All State employee’s want is to get paid timely for the work they have done.
    That being said. Lets try to take a selfless look at the budget process. Do WE want a budget that just gets paid for the next 12 or 48 months? Do WE want to be back here again when the “Stimulus” money as stopped flowing in 3 years?
    Unless the state is willing to make some drastic changes that would allow for a more business friendly environment – which would create more working Pennsylvanians by which making our current TAX levels produce revenue for the state. Since this is not likely to happen we need to deal with the cuts to the budget to make a better Pennsylvania for All of US!

  7. JOE, I agree with you. I think we have lots of budgetary fluff to cut. Let’s cut per diems first and foremost. I just read a John Baer article that stated that on Thursday, the only house vote taken was the roll call. So the per diems could be paid. I suspect there are cuts that could be made that don’t cut programs or organizations. I suspect that if they gave me and several other housewives who live on State salaries red pens, a conference room, the budget and the space of 8 hours we could turn up a very adequate spending plan that addresses the needs of the State and its citizens…but possibly not the State’s politicians. As in the private sector…when I needed to address a budget deficit in my own organization, if it came to services to my custmoers or losing people, the first to go was consultants. Those consulting firms, while providing value for a time, suck you dry in no time. You’re always afraid you can’t do without them (which really says little for your confidence in your own employees therefore your ability to manage…) and are very pleasantly surprised after they are gone that you are doing just fine and their value add was really miniscule. And you’ve just saved millions by dumping them.

    Yes. I’d love to have a red pen and the budget and the ability to ask some hard questions about it.

  8. I’ve been a state employee for over 14 years, first with the Department of Corrections and now for Public Welfare.

    I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be working for our “great” state and not be getting paid. Something else that’s hard to believe is it seems we don’t have any recourse. We have to show up for work and put a smile on our faces for the clients, who I might add, are not affected by the budget impasse. They’re still getting their cash benefits, food stamps and medical benefits. Yes, I know, food stamps come from the federal government, it doesn’t make it any more fair. I’m still expected to show up, do my job, and make sure that the fine, unworking citizens get what they so duly deserve while there’s a good chance come July 31st I won’t get paid.

    Another point I’d like to make is the coverage the budget impasse is getting in the area I live in. NONE…absolutely nothing. Sure, they covered the “breakout” that was done on July 14th and every once in a while there will be something mentioned on Page 15 of the local paper, but that’s it. I called a couple of news stations and sent e-mails regarding the lack of coverage on the news and pointing out to one man I spoke to that when New Jersey was going through their budget impasse, it was mentioned everyday in the first five minutes of every newscast around so why aren’t we getting the same respect. He told me to get my facts right that it wasn’t true. Well, I know what I saw and heard then and I know what I’m seeing and hearing now and it’s nothing about what the workers of Pennsylvania are facing come July 31st.

    As far as I’m concerned, if the Congressmen and Senators that are playing a tug-of-war with our lives get re-elected, we’ll see the same thing again…maybe not next year or the next, but sometime in the near future. What a sad, sad time to be living in such a power hungry state.

  9. Sally, there’s evidently a major cover-up going on where the media is concerned. The only real mention of our plight is that there are loans and soup kitchens available to us. I know there is major ‘hush hush’ re: our smeltering boiling points that we are all fastly. and vastly approaching. I’m becomming more and more, ever increasingly quite anxious and irate. This situation is making me ill.

  10. Incredulous, I’m thinking about penning a letter to the Federal Administration asking how the PA State Workers and families get a bail out. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I want to call attention to our plight. Like you, it is impacting my well being in so many ways and (obviously) keeping me awake at night since it is like 4:15 am.

  11. Robin, if you write that letter, perhaps you could get it posted, we all could sign it. It DOES seem like much; it’s action and it’s an excellent idea. Reading your posts, I find that you word things very well, you’re informed (you know your facts) and intelligent. You seem like the ideal person to do it. You’re up most the night anyway! (just a joke) Please do consider.

  12. Charlene, you are very generous. I’d be glad to write it However, I lack technical skills that would be necessary to put it up online as a petition and collect signatures. I am pretty much limited to blogs somebody else has built or my canned template blog on wordpress! I do think I remember seeing someplace you could create online petitions so I’ll look into it. If I find something I’ll post it here and on my blog!

  13. Which guys Dan? Us…here…the posters? Absolutely! It’s all we hope for them to do. Unfortunately the legislature and the governor do not seem to comprehend compromise. Thus, I assume it is they that you referred to?

  14. The welfare offices are being told to gather the names of state employees applying for benefits. I think that is a violation of their privacy.The Feds should be contacted as to how their SNAP – food staamp program – is being tainted by the COP use of intimidation.

  15. I live in Erie, Pa. What is amazing to me is the lack of media attention to our plight. There are small blurbs in our local paper, but far more about the extreme makeover to one woman’s home. I must tell you I do not want my taxes raised. I may be part of a silent majority who has worked all my life, believed in helping those in need and am finally coming to the realization that I am completely hurting myself. Reform in this state needs to occur. People need to start taking responsibility for their lives. We need to help those in true need, but not those who just want to take.

  16. As a state worker, just when I’ve heard about all the political BS that I want to hear, a political solicitation for contributions to a food bank happened tonight. Of course, when you try to either answer the call or call back, a recording is all you get. Talk about a slap in the face….don’t give me a paycheck but still expect me to keep on giving. These guys have no morals other than their own gain…either that or a set of basketballs.

  17. The Fair Labor Standars Act is a Federal Law and requires employees be paid for actual hours worked. Contact your local Federal Wage and Hour office of the US dept of Labor if you dont get paid

  18. Forget the food stamps, forget the loans, forget the payless paydays. forget the longer this Budget takes the sooner we will get to go through it all again next June.
    Forget Rendell ask to get loans for us, but could have signed a “stop gap”, and we all would have got paid. Forget that the GOP Pileggi back S 850 Bill eliminates, (not furloughs), 5000-6000 of our jobs. Forget that the Union has been non existent.
    Remember this Spring, when the primaries come to town, and as State Employee’s we can and should, regardless of party or lack of party vote every single incumbant out of Office, the message this would send will put an end to use being used as scape goats by all.
    Togher we in the voting booths we can be strong.
    I do have one question for the Senate, if the whole idea behind economic recovery to provide jobs to get money flowing HOW WOULD THE ELIMINATION OF 5000-6000 STATE JOBS HELP? I did notice however they neglected to eliminate any of the Legislature’s jobs?????
    See you all at the polls!!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.