The chairman of the state panel that sets pay for California legislators and statewide officials said Thursday he expects the salaries to remain the same next year, even if the state's finances are strong enough to justify raises.
The California Citizens Compensation Commission met for about an hour in Sacramento, but decided to delay a decision until after the panel gets an updated report on the state's fiscal health from the Department of Finance. By law, the commission cannot raise officials' pay unless the state shows a surplus in May.
Commission Chairman Thomas Dalzell said he sees it as "very unlikely" that members decide to increase or reduce pay levels when they meet again on June 13. Giving raises in the first year of a projected surplus, he said, would "probably be unseemly."
"The economy's fairly volatile and things could flip around and I think there are priorities greater than the legislator and constitutional officer salaries," he said after the meeting. "What we do is largely symbolic because it has no significant effect on the budget, but I think it's important symbolically to not rush ahead and to restore the cuts on the first year out."
The panel has slashed pay and benefits for elected officials over the last several years, most recently instituting a 5 percent salary cut and axing a program that provided on-the-job cars for state legislators.
Annual pay for the governor dropped from $212,179 to $165,288 between 2005 and December 2012, while starting salaries for members of the Legislature went from $116,208 to $90,526 in that period. State legislators are also eligible for roughly $30,000 in annual payments for living expenses.
Even with the cuts, California was still home to the highest-paid state legislators in the country last year, according to research conducted for the commission. Compensation for governor, meanwhile, ranked sixth nationally in 2012, behind such states as Illinois, New York and Virginia.
Still, leading elected officials have come out against additional cuts. Gov. Jerry Brown, who has appointed three of the six members serving on the pay panel, said this week that further reductions aren't needed. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg agreed on Thursday, saying legislators have "been through hell and back with these state budgets," as California has climbed out of a $42 billion hole.
"We stepped up and made hard decisions; we are not perfect by any means but the Legislature has taken, when you add up everything, I think over a 25 percent cut. And I think enough is enough," he said. "I'm going to stand up for and with hardworking public servants."
Call Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544. Jeremy B. White of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.