That’s right — $3,000,000. PER DAY. Thanks to Robin over at Nana’s House for catching this one. Using that number, Pennsylvania taxpayers are already on the hook for $78 million in liquidated damages. That’s an average of $90 million for every month that this drags on. If Judge Judy were trying this case, this is the moment when she would yell “Outrageous. OUTRAGEOUS! What kind of responsible behavior is THAT?”
Come to think of it, I personally would pay a large sum of money to watch AFSCME and the Rendell administration work this out in her amusing-yet-disturbing circus of arbitration (incidentally, “AFSCME & The Rendell Administration” was the name of a band at my college way back when). But I digress.
This figure comes from a document created by the Office of Administration regarding the furloughs and how they would affect 2008-2009 fiscal year. The document can be found by Googling “Commonwealth of PA FLSA“. It’s the eighth entry down (if you don’t see it, sign out of everything Google and try again). The URL begins with “www.lmsinfo.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/…”. It’s a Powerpoint presentation prepared on June 8, 2008, presumably to discuss implications of the then-upcoming furloughs. It’s an interesting read in its entirety, but the most important element is on page 18:
JULY 1ST FORWARD: Budget Impasse furloughs begin if there is no signed budget. Governor’s Office decision to: 1) withhold pay – to meet legal requirements relative to expenditures after July 1st and 2) call for temporary furloughs – to avoid liability of double wages ($3 million/day).
If you whip $3 million into your calculator and assume 77,000 state employees, you’ll eventually wind up with an average annual salary of $14,220. This is, obviously, wrong. But if you further divide it down to the hour, it comes out to an average pay rate of $7.29 per hour. That’s awfully close to Pennsylvania’s 2008-era minimum wage of $7.15 per hour. I’m willing to bet that if you recalculate using the exact number of employees when this document was written, it would come out to exactly $7.15 per hour.
Algebraic shenanigans aside, this document shows that the state in 2008 was well aware of what the damages would be should wages go unpaid. The state, if it were here for me to interview, would likely point out that this document was created June 6th, 2008 — about five weeks before the Court issued its decision in AFSCME v Rendell. Had that decision been rendered prior to this document being created, it may say something entirely different. And it’s worth pointing out that the Office of Administration is not responsible for us not getting paid. Responsibility for the impasse rests solely with the legislative and executive branches of our state government, all of whom have repeatedly failed to do their jobs since, oh, April of this year.
Contact your legislators again. Contact Governor Rendell again. Ask them why they have chosen to cost Pennsylvania taxpayers an additional $3 million dollars every day.