Heckuva Workflow, Arnie

This is a pretty good representation of what happens when the GOP governing philosophy holds sway. Apparently the Governator decided to try to cut salaries for all state employees to minimum wage by Executive Order.

The Republican governor signed an executive order last week recommending the cut to minimum wage for most permanent state workers and terminating 10,133 temporary and part-time employees. He believes the state must take drastic steps to preserve cash over the next two months as the state continues to operate without a budget 36 days into the new fiscal year.

Unfortunately for that strategy, the results of past tantrums have prevented timely throwing of contemporary tantrums.

Democratic state Controller John Chiang said Monday it would take at least six months to reconfigure the state’s payroll system to issue blanket checks at the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour, though Schwarzenegger insists such a change should occur this month.

The state payroll system is based on the COBOL, or Common Business Oriented Language, programming language – a code first introduced in 1959 and popularized in the 1960s and 1970s.

“COBOL programmers are hard to come by these days,” said Fred Forrer, the Sacramento-based CEO of MGT of America, a public-sector consulting firm. “It’s certainly not a language that is taught. Oftentimes, you have to rely on retired annuitants to come back and help maintain the system until you’re able to find a replacement.”

Retired state employees who have returned to work part-time for the state were among thousands of workers laid off last week.

Forrer said the system has tens of thousands of lines of code, so it is time-consuming to find and replace salaries for each job classification on an individual basis.

California has tried to modernize its payroll system throughout the past decade, dating back to former Controller Kathleen Connell. It has faced numerous delays as state legislators have avoided investing the $177 million it now will cost.

Now I recognize that it’s possible that the Controller is playing games, but still, the only thing more brilliant than the salary reduction order was the termination of the contract programmers that the state had maintaining the system. There’s got to be a prize for something like that.