Sunday, July 4, 2010

Schwarzenegger Discovers A Monkey In The Works

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to address the state's empty coffers has again been frustrated by (guess who?) Democrats in state government.

The state currently has a 19 Billion dollar deficit (that would be Billion, with a "B") which has yet to be addressed by the Democrat controlled state legislature. The Legislature's failure to act has left the state with a financial shortfall and without a spending plan as the new fiscal year begins. In response Schwarzenegger ordered the state workers' pay temporarily cut to the federal minimum wage as a stop gap measure, the back owed payments to be repaid once the state has funded its expenditures.

Governor Schwarzenegger's action was initially challenged in court. Just Friday, a state appellate court ruled in Schwarzenegger's favor, affirming the governor does have the power to make such changes in dealing with the state's budget woes. However, John Chiang, a Democrat elected in 2006 and the state controller who issues state paychecks, says he cannot comply. He cited the state's computer system as the reason, claiming the technological challenge of restating paychecks to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour was just too difficult to tabulate, and asserted the computerized payroll system won't be able to be programmed for such a highly complicated calculation until October 2012. (!)

Mr. Chiang referred to a loophole in the courts ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which said "unfeasibility" would excuse him from complying with Schwarzenegger's minimum wage order.

Let's see here. To comply Mr. Chaing would have to instruct the computer's writing paychecks to set reimbursement rates for all the states employees to $7.25 per hour, then cut checks accordingly.

I have to tell you, it is a rare day when we have government employees citing their own incompetence as a reason for their inability to effect change. I'm not even a computer guy, but I can tell you if all you have to do is reset the wage as $7.25 an hour for all employees that looks like a pretty simple task. Can't get it done until October of 2012? It's going to take Mr. Chiang twenty seven months to get it done? What's this clown thinking? Even if he wrote out all 200,000 checks by hand, it wouldn't take him two and a quarter years to do it. Sheesh, no wonder these guys are in trouble.

Okay Dr. Greenlick, here is your state controlled bureaucracy functioning at its finest.

Good grief.


  1. If Governor Schwarzenegger decided to effect an across the board pay raise of $1.00 an hour to the state's 200,00 employees, do you think Mr. Chaing would find himself unable to implement the change until October of 2012?

    I thought not.

  2. I am a computer guy, and in my first job I even worked on the payroll programs for city government.

    This change isn't difficult. It's not something that can be dashed of in an hour, but at most a couple of weeks would do -- most of that time would be testing/verifying it had been done correctly, so that an accurate record of deferred pay is kept for when it's paid back to the employees.

  3. But, yeah, government bureaucratic IT people just may be this ineffecient.

    An example:

    This past tax season (in Ohio), I entered my total due in the line above where it was supposed to be written; that is, on the line for some other sub-amount due from some other form. The state's crack programmers didn't care that this amount just magically appeared (and just happened to be identical to the sub-total being carried forward from the previous section) ... their program added it to the sub-total already recorded ... and sent me a bill for it, doubling the amount I "owed." When I called, the help desk guy who answered the phone knew at once what had happened. So, clearly, the IT staff know about the problem.

    But, government is *never* liable for the mistakes it makes. Can you imagine what the State of Ohio would do to a private entity which continuously double billed its "customers?"

    Another example:

    Back in 1999-2000, I was contracted as back-end technical support to the help desk of a depatment of the State of Ohio (the child support enforcement project). Their programs were coded to calculate (and remit to the state as a service fee) a certain percentage of the monies collected from the non-custodial parent (i.e. the father) -- despite that this practice was against the federal regulations governing all state agencies of this sort. ON TOP OF THAT, the code to do this calculation had a rounding-error which had been there from day one, a number fo years before ... and everyone knew about it!

    So, there I was, third-tier/technical support for the project (that is, it was my task to figure out where in the code a problem is occurring and write up a technical error-report so that the dept/project managers could schedule their programming staff to fix it) ... and (the non-technical morons of) the two levels of help desk support in front of me were constantly sending me error-tickets for a problem THAT THEY THEMSELVES ALREADY KNOW ABOUT and saw almost daily.

    So, I was so sick of constantly seeing the same already known issue (which means I wasn't working on unknown/unresolved issues), that I decided to find out what it would take to solve the rounding error.

    I came up with six lines of code that would solve the problem permanently ... and, if I recall correctly, would also fix the imbalances in accounts for all "customers" who hadn't yet called to complain about it.

    When I left a year later, the management and programming staff STILL HADN'T FIXED THE PROBLEM, DESPITE THAT I'D GIVEN THEM THE EXACT CODE TO USE TO FIX IT!

  4. By the way, a few years ago, the feds finally figured out that Ohio was charging this service fee (it was called "poundage" ... and the federal guidlines forbidding it not only described the fee, but specifically used that term, and others, to forbid it) abd fined the State.

  5. However, John Chiang, a Democrat elected in 2006 and the state controller who issues state paychecks, says he cannot comply.

    You don't suppose "elected" is the key word here?

  6. Only if "Democrat" is more key.

  7. Yes to both! It's the key phrase in understanding the downfall of Kalifornia: 'elected Democrat'!!

    : )

  8. We're screwed!

    That's all I've got.

  9. How did that happen? Bob shows up, and everybodies comments just vanish. There are supposed to be eight more comments here.

    Hmmm. Well, check out Bob's post. He's got some good stuff from William Jacobsen. Plus he linked me, so he's got the whole karma thing going for him.

  10. The Blogger/Google software can do odd things with the comments, at times.