California Governor, Lawmakers Get Pay Cut 5% by Panel

California Governor Jerry Brown, along with lawmakers and other statewide elected officials, will take a 5 percent pay cut, according to the commission that sets their salaries.

The panel’s decision today to drop Brown’s pay to $165,288 from $173,987 and lawmakers’ base salaries to $90,526 from $95,291 follows the governor’s budget proposal to temporarily reduce the state’s personnel costs by 5 percent, mainly by cutting back workers’ hours.

“The governor is imposing on public employees the same salary reduction,” Charles Murray, a commission member who proposed the cuts, said during today’s meeting. “This may not make a dent in the deficit but we have to send a message.”

The changes won’t take effect until December, and could be repealed before the end of June if a budget agreement eliminates the need for the state payroll reduction, commission members said. Brown, a 74-year-old Democrat facing a $15.7 billion budget gap through June 2013, is seeking savings in a state where unionized public workers are paid more than peers in other states, and civil-service protections hamper dismissals.

Some commission members disagreed with the rollbacks.

“The legislative salaries are already the equivalent to a skilled construction worker and to cut any more would be a mistake,” Thomas Dalzell, the panel’s chairman, said of the changes. “It is a gesture.”

Higher Taxes

Brown’s latest budget proposal counts on passage of a ballot measure to temporarily raise sales and some income taxes, while reducing spending on education, public safety and services for the needy. An earlier plan that cut less had to be revised when state revenue trailed current budget projections, with levies on wages falling 20 percent short of estimates.

“They are independent and they voted as they saw fit,” Brown said of his pay cut. “This is tough times for California and we are going to impose some very difficult cuts.”

As for his personal situation, Brown suggested a cut wouldn’t make much difference to him.

“I derive a lot psychic income” from the position, Brown said. “I’d run for governor whether it was a paid job or not.”

Voters in 1990 passed an initiative that created the seven-member California Citizens Compensation Commission. Appointed by the governor, the panel sets salaries of constitutional officers and members of the Legislature.

The commission in 2009 cut the officials’ pay rates by 18 percent after then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and the Legislature agreed to force state workers to take three unpaid days off each month, equivalent to a 14 percent wage reduction. Schwarzenegger never cashed his state paycheck while in office.

In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment that strips lawmakers of their pay for every day they are late in passing a budget. The deadline for the annual spending plan is June 15.

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