Pennsylvania state employees, from 13 city public-welfare offices, walked off the job for 30 minutes during lunchtime Tuesday to protest a Rendell administration policy requiring them to work without pay as long as the state budget remains in limbo. They chanted “we want our pay” and carried signs saying"pass the budget now."
Across the state, labor unions organized similar demonstrations and informational picketing at state offices, prisons and other work sites to underscore employees' displeasure with "payless paydays."
"We just want to turn the heat up" on budget negotiators, said David R. Fillman, executive director of Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest state-worker union, which represents about 44,000 state workers.
Bobbie Boyd, 39, a welfare caseworker, carried a placard asking Gov. Ed Rendell to co-sign one of the interest-free loans that some banks and credit unions have offered to qualified employees whose pay is interrupted.
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"Unfortunately, I don't have a good credit rating, so I would like the governor to co-sign my loan so I can feed my kid and pay my bills," said Boyd, who has an 8-year-old son.
The state constitution bars the government from making most payments without the authorization of a state budget, and there still is no sign that the Democratic governor and Republicans who control the state Senate are even close to a deal. There were no high-level talks on Tuesday and none was scheduled.
In all, about 80,000 state employees, including the governor and legislators, will see their paychecks affected by the end of the month if no budget has been approved.
On Friday, more than 33,000 executive-branch employees under the governor's jurisdiction will receive only part of their usual pay. More than 44,000 others would see even smaller paychecks a week later. Beginning July 31, normally a payday, they would receive no pay at all.
Workers would receive all their back pay once a budget is passed, and their health coverage is not affected by the budget stalemate.
Rendell and Democratic legislative leaders advocate raising taxes, including the personal income tax, to support about $29 billion in spending for the fiscal year that began July 1. Republican legislative oppose new taxes and would hold spending to about $27 billion.