Capitol Alert: Pay commission grants five percent raise for California lawmakers, officials

jsanders@sacbee.comJune 19, 2013 

Pay for Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and other top elected officials is going up, a state commission decided Wednesday.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission voted 5-1 to grant a five percent raise for the state's 120 lawmakers and 12 constitutional officers, partially restoring pay cuts imposed during the recession.

The seven-member panel of gubernatorial appointees, created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is charged with annually setting pay for statewide elected officials.

Brown's current salary is $165,288 while pay for other constitutional officers ranges from $143,571 for the attorney general to $123,965 for the lieutenant governor and Board of Equalization members. Legislators make $90,526.

During California's budget crisis, pay for top elected officials was cut gradually by about 22 percent - chopping nearly $47,000 off gubernatorial pay, for example, and $26,000 off legislative pay.

Under the raise approved this morning, lawmakers will make $95,291.

Legislative belt-tightening by the commission in years past also included slashing per diem expense payments from $173 to $142, trimming health benefits, and eliminating a program that leased and maintained cars for lawmakers. The panel is still discussing those benefits.

A key argument made when commissioners cut officeholder pay was that the state was in desperate financial shape and that leaders needed to tighten their own belts at a time when employees were being furloughed.

Since then, California's economy has steadied, voters have passed billions in temporary tax hikes, and the recently passed state budget provides a 4.5 percent salary increase for members of the state's largest public employee union by mid-2015.

The Legislature is promised a $12 million windfall in the new state budget awaiting Brown's signature. The extra money, which can be used for legislative salaries approved by the pay commission, stems from a formula tied to a ballot measure approved more than three decades ago.

California's statewide elected officials tend to receive higher pay than counterparts nationwide, but their salaries pale in comparison to many city managers, county executives, district attorneys and other top local government officials, according to commission surveys.

New York pays its legislators more than twice as much as California does, when various stipends and retirement benefits are taken into consideration, administrators of the Assembly and Senate noted in a letter sent to the pay commission last month along with statistics by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. California provides no pensions for legislators.

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