By Mike Luery
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — An Assemblyman’s claim for back pay was shot down today by a government board. But the battle is far from over – in fact it is just heating up. Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D) Los Angeles, filed his Claim against the state, insisting it was illegal for lawmakers to have their pay cut by an independent panel.
Today Cedillo’s claim came before the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, which denied his claim. Cedillo told CBS 13 he will now likely file a lawsuit against the state, despite California’s $28 billion debt.
“This is a difficult time,” Cedillo said. The Los Angeles lawmaker added, “And there’s no question that this in some respects may be unpopular. But given all that, because of all that, it’s important to protect the integrity of the legislature and to protect the will of the people of California.”
The people of California told politicians they didn’t want them setting their own salaries, when they voted for an independent commission in 1990.
California lawmakers used to take home six-figure salaries, making $116,208 annually in 2008. But in 2009, the California Citizens Compensation Commission cut legislators pay by 18%. State lawmakers now make $95,291 a year – and of course most get per diems – daily expenses of $141 a day, adding up to another $29,000 a year, tax-free.
If Cedillo wins in court, it could result in an estimated $2.5 million in back pay for state lawmakers. Many politicians at the Capitol are distancing themselves as fast and as far as possible from Cedillo’s efforts. State Senator Lou Correa (D) Santa Ana, wrote this letter to the Victims Compensation Board, urging board members to turn down Cedillo’s request.
January 20, 2011
Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board Members
Sacramento, CA 95814
Thank you for your service to the State of California. It is good to have dedicated individuals, like you, working on behalf of the California taxpayers.
On January 20th, you are scheduled to consider reinstating legislators’ pay to the level prior to California’s economic downturn ($122,000 per year). I write this letter asking you to “stay the course” and keep legislators pay at the reduced level of $99,000 per year.
These are hard economic times for California. The California unemployment rate continues to be a historically high level of 12% plus. In my area, unemployment, underemployment, and others without jobs, total a level closer to 20%. Many state workers, teachers and others in the private sector, have taken furloughs, and pay cuts, and have been laid off, resulting in a total loss or a considerable loss to their pay. Clearly, California is still suffering from its most severe economic recession since the 1930’s.
As an elected official, I believe that we should lead by example. As long as our constituents are suffering, as long as California’s unemployment level is at 12%, we should share in the pain as well.
Again, I ask that you stay the course, keep my salary at its reduced level, until California’s economic picture turns the corner and California’s unemployment rate begins to show to positive changes.
State Senator, 34th District