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Fresh off a major legal victory, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration on Tuesday filed another lawsuit against the state controller in an effort to force him to pay California government workers the federal minimum wage.
The Department of Personnel Administration filed the lawsuit against Controller John Chiang in Sacramento County Superior Court. It seeks a restraining order that would force Chiang to pay state employees $7.25 an hour, rather than their full salaries.
A state appeals court in Sacramento ruled last week that the Republican governor has the authority to order the minimum wage because the state has not passed a budget for the current fiscal year.
Schwarzenegger's order would cover about 200,000 of the state's 237,000 workers. It would not apply to employees covered by unions that recently reached tentative labor agreements with the governor. State doctors and lawyers wouldn't get a paycheck at all because minimum wage laws do not apply to those professions.
If wages are cut, employees will be reimbursed once a budget is signed.
The controller, a Democrat, has said he doesn't have to follow the order because the state's computer payroll system can't handle the change. His office was reviewing the lawsuit Tuesday.
"Absent changes to state payroll laws and the completion of the state's payroll system overhaul, these reductions cannot be made without violating both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the state constitution, exposing taxpayers to billions of dollars in damages and fines," Deputy Controller Hallye Jordan said in a statement.
Jordan added that the controller "will pursue any legal avenue needed to protect Californians from the governor's reckless executive order."
The state's payroll system was designed more than 60 years ago and was last revamped in 1970.
The Schwarzenegger administration filed its original lawsuit in Superior Court two years ago when the governor first attempted to impose the minimum wage during a previous budget deadlock. The controller, who cuts state paychecks, has refused to comply.
The political fight reached the state's Third District Court of Appeal, which concluded last week that Chiang cannot ignore the minimum wage order from Schwarzenegger's administration.
"Since the controller continues to ignore court decisions, we must again ask the court to stop him from violating the law," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said in a statement. "The courts have been clear: In the absence of a state budget or other available appropriation, the controller does not have the authority to continue paying regular salaries and wages."