Paychecks may be victims of budget battle

July 14, 2009 3:01:01 PM PDT
Pennsylvania's budget battle could have a big impact on the thousands of employees who keep the state running.Rallies were held all across the state Tuesday, including one in Philadelphia's Frankford section.

The key issue: Workers face the reality of not getting paid until the impasse in Harrisburg is over.

Outside state offices across the region, irate state workers protested during lunch hour.

"Harrisburg is holding our paychecks hostage," one protestor shouted.

The budget meltdown means there is no authoritization to pay most state employees for work they have done since July 1st.

Over the next two weeks, they'll get smaller than normal paychecks for work done in the last few days of June. After that, if the impasse continues, the pipeline runs dry.

"We have to get paid. We have bills. We all have families," said state worker Ray Culver.

Workers say some elements of the budget mess are hard to fathom. For example, funding for stipends earned by prisoners will continue, while corrections officers would essentially get IOUs.

The state says medical benefits will remain in force, and once a budget is signed workers will get full back pay. For the short term, the governor says he has arranged for no-interest loans.

Then, he suggested grateful workers should "Put up a statue of me on their mantle place."

Protestors are not about to put up a state of the governor, saying workers have been turned down for the loans.

"That just goes to show how out of touch this guy is," said union organizer Ray Martinez. "Workers work, they need their money. It's fair. It's the right thing to do."

To spread the word, workers are inviting themselves to dinner Friday night at the governor's home.

"We're going to march governor's mansion in East Falls. We're going to bring our friends, our families our pets. We're going to bring paper plates," said Martinez.

The union says if many sides can't come together on a budget, they should at least pass a stop-gap measure that would allow workers to get paid.

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