Our View: Governor should veto wage bill

October 11, 2013 

Voters should rightly expect that Gov. Jerry Brown be reasonably consistent with his state bill signings and his dealings with the federal government. A big test of that consistency involves a lawsuit the governor filed last week and Senate Bill 7 that is now on his desk, awaiting a decision today or Sunday.

With the lawsuit, the governor seeks to prevent the federal government from imposing costly, unreasonable and unconstitutional demands on the state. Senate Bill 7, should it become law, would permit the state to impose costly, unreasonable and unconstitutional demands on charter cities. The governor should vigorously pursue his lawsuit against the federal government and he should veto SB 7.

With the lawsuit, Brown seeks to prevent the federal government from withholding transportation grants unless the state agrees to exempt transit workers from pension reforms the enacted last year. The federal government claims that state pension law violates transit workers’ collective bargaining rights. Brown denies that assertion and argues correctly that the federal government’s actions are both coercive and unconstitutional.

The federal government is withholding hundreds of millions in transportation grants that have nothing whatever to do with transit workers’ collective bargaining rights. As the lawsuit states, by withholding the funds, the Labor Department undermines “the independent fiscal and legislative sovereignty of California.”

For the same reason Brown is right to pursue his lawsuit against the U.S. Labor Department, he is obligated to veto SB 7. Authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and co-authored by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, the bill seeks to withhold state funds from any charter city that fails to comply with the state’s prevailing wage laws when using city funds alone to pay for public works projects.

SB 7 would deny all state construction funding – including state bond money, loans or grants – to any city whose voters approved charter provisions that exempt contractors from paying prevailing wages for locally funded projects.

Of California’s 120 charter cities, 51 have approved such provisions. The bill would punish those cities and its residents for exercising their constitutional rights to use city money in ways they choose.

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