California News

Commission to decide on lawmaker pay cut

Thursday, May 24, 2012

California lawmakers are the highest-paid legislators in the nation. And that's after their pay was slashed by 18 percent in 2009. Soon their pay may be cut again, this time by 5 percent. Some people say it's fair turnaround.

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll found only 25 percent of those surveyed approve of the job lawmakers in Sacramento are doing.

Next week, the California Citizens Compensation Commission votes on whether to make them take another 5-percent pay cut.

Assemblyman Minority Whip Dan Logue (R-Chico) thinks it's well-deserved because they're not getting the job done.

"We have the second-highest unemployment rate in the country. Jobs are leaving California in record number. Sacramento spends beyond its means. We don't have a spending cap," said Logue. "I don't blame them."

The voter-approved commission slashed lawmakers' pay 18 percent in 2009, cutting their annual salary from $116,000 to the current $95,000. Another 5 percent would take their pay down to $90,000 a year, but they would still keep their $142-per-day tax-free per diem for living expenses.

Critics say everyday people wouldn't be able to run for office at the rate the commission is cutting.

"I'm very concerned because if the commission continues in the direction that it's headed, only rich people will serve," said Assm. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles). "And if only rich people are serving, the voters have to ask, Who are they serving?"

Opponents also point out the Commission's costly move when it took away lawmakers' cars this year and instead began reimbursing them 53 cents a mile. For many representatives who have big districts, that's more expensive than giving them a car.

"In fact, they're not saving taxpayers' money. They're costing the taxpayers more money," said Cedillo.

While officeholder pay cuts won't solve California's $16-billion budget deficit, the move may do more to send a message.

"With only 25 percent approving of their job performance, people think that maybe there should repercussions," said Dean Bonner, a policy associate with Public Policy Institute of California.

State Controller John Chiang says he will be following a recent court ruling and will not dock state lawmaker pay for every day the state budget is late. So this proposed 5-percent cut the commission is considering may gain more support among Californians.

Also, if approved, the governor will have his pay cut down to $165,000 per year.

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california state assembly, california state senate, california news, nannette miranda
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