SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state panel on Thursday sent a message about the severity of California’s $15.7 billion budget deficit by approving a 5 percent pay cut for Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and other statewide elected officials.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets pay and health benefits for those offices, voted 5-1 in favor of the cuts that take effect Dec. 3.

“We love the state of California and what we have now is disastrous and we have to get us out of the hole,” said Commissioner Charles Murray, who proposed the reduction.

He added: “I agree that this isn’t going to make a dent but I think it will send a message that we have to move on. … Everybody has to sacrifice and a lot have done so much more than others.”

The independent panel previously reduced salaries for 120 members of the Legislature and 12 statewide officeholders by 18 percent in 2009.

California lawmakers do not receive pensions but are the highest paid in the nation with a base annual salary of $95,290. Nearly all receive additional tax-free per diem payments of about $30,000 a year.

The pay cut will drop their salaries to $90,525, which commissioners said would still keep them at the top of the national list on a cash basis. The leaders of the Assembly and Senate will be cut from $109,584, to $104,105.

Brown’s salary will be reduced from just under $174,000 to about $165,000. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will see his $130,000 salary reduced to about $124,000. And the pay of Attorney General Kamala Harris will drop from about $151,000 to less than $144,000.

Commissioner Ruth Lopez Novodor, the only member to vote against the proposal, said the 5 percent cut should only take effect if the governor successfully negotiates a pay reduction for state workers. Brown has proposed talks with unions to reduce the state workweek from five to four days.

The governor estimates that proposal would save the state 5 percent, or $402 million, on salaries. In addition, his proposed budget would reduce the state workforce to about 216,000, down from 225,000 workers in 2007-08 and about 4,000 fewer than last year.

State employees temporarily lost pay through furloughs ordered by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The cut was about 14 percent but pay has since been restored and relatively few state workers have lost their jobs to actual layoffs.

Thomas Dalzell, chairman of the commission, chose to abstain from Thursday’s vote. He noted that the governor makes less than trial judges and that lawmakers’ salaries are roughly equivalent to a skilled construction worker.

“To cut them further boggles my mind,” Dalzell said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)


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