Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Embarrassing State of 1970

The Gubernator in 2008 said cut some employees wages to minimum wage. A State Appeals Court this week upheld that order.

The Court noted that State Constitution prohibits paying wages for most state employees without a budget adopted by the Legislature. The Court also confirmed that federal law supersedes state law and requires that the employees must be paid the federal minimum wage.

The Court said to the State Controller, while we understand that the 2008 order is moot, we're dealing with the issues in order to clarify your obligations pursuant to law for the future, perhaps for circumstances such as what has happened this week in 2010 (see the complete ruling).

State Controller John Chiang says he couldn't do it then and he can't do it now. Why? To quote an AP article:

The state's payroll system was designed more than 60 years ago and was last revamped in 1970, Hallye Jordan, state controller's office spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

A report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office said an overhaul of the state's computerized payroll system was proposed by the controller's office in 2004. A year later, the Legislature approved $130 million for the effort, called the 21st Century Project.

...[John Harrigan, a division chief for the state's payroll services from 1980 to 2006] said he was involved with the 21st Century Project when it was conceived in the late 1990s. He said the state fired the vendor executing the project in 2008 because the company went bankrupt.

As the project dragged on, the state has had fewer experts on hand who could thoroughly understand the programming languages used to design the system.

"There's been a knowledge loss with people retiring," Harrigan said.

So the State of California, home to literally dozens of technology giants, among them Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Intuit (maker of QuickBooks Payroll Enhanced), processes its payroll on a 1970 computer system - a system so old that it preceded the advent of the personal computer.

Unfortunately, it's not surprising because sometime in the 1970's state government ceased to progress sometime in the 1970's.

But it's embarrassing.

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