The State Worker

Jon Ortiz chronicles civil-service life for California state workers

California pay commission to consider 5 percent cut for state elected officials

05/22/2012 12:00 AM

02/26/2013 8:16 PM

One week after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed slicing state workers' pay by 5 percent, the Democratic governor and legislators find themselves targeted for a "share the pain" salary cut.

Members of California's Citizens Compensation Commission said Monday that a pay-cut proposal for statewide officeholders will be on the table when the panel meets May 31.

Commissioner John Stites II said he supports a 5 percent cut for elected officeholders, from the governor to lawmakers.

"I definitely think they should take the same hit – at least," Stites said. "Whatever happens to the people who work for you, whatever conditions they live under, it's incumbent upon you to live under those same conditions."

Brown projects a $15.7 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and has proposed to bridge the gap with tax increases and program cuts, including a shift to a 38-hour, four-day workweek for state workers.

When he unveiled his revised proposal last week, Brown said his administration "would do more than what we ask state employees to do," suggesting he and others would voluntarily take pay cuts.

Stites and other commissioners said they have no idea whether a pay cut would pass the seven-member panel of gubernatorial appointees.

Commission Chairman Tom Dalzell said he supports the notion of shared sacrifice, but that it would be premature to cut elected officials' pay this year when the fate of Brown's 5 percent wage cut for state workers has not been decided.

"It's putting the cart before the horse," Dalzell said.

The pay commission, created by voter passage of Proposition 112 in 1990, is responsible for determining compensation for all statewide elected officials. Salaries for California's elected officials range from $173,987 for Brown to $95,291 for legislators.

The panel chopped officeholders' pay and state contributions to their medical, dental and other benefits by 18 percent in 2009.

Legislators have taken additional hits to their compensation the past three years, with elimination of a Capitol car-lease program and a cut in lawmakers' living expenses from $173 to $142 per day.

Commissioner Charles Murray stopped short Monday of committing himself to a new pay cut for officeholders. But they, too, should feel pain from this year's belt-tightening, he said.

"Even though the legislators don't consider themselves state workers, we do," Murray said.

Commissioner Scott Somers was noncommittal about whether he would vote yes at the panel's meeting next week at Sacramento City Hall. Somers said he supports the concept of shared pain but does not think elected officials should automatically be slapped with an equal cut any time state worker pay is reduced.

"That rather puts them in a compromising position," he said.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, did not comment Monday on the proposal expected to be taken up by the pay commission. Other legislators had mixed views about a 5 percent pay cut.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, a Los Angeles Democrat who has challenged commission actions in the past, said he continues to question whether the panel is abiding by the law in making decisions.

Proposition 112 gave the commission authority to cut pay, but only after considering factors ranging from hours spent on the job to salaries of other elected officials, appointed officials and, to the extent possible, private industry leaders.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a La Cañada Flintridge Democrat who turned down a salary increase several years ago, said he would not object to a new 5 percent reduction.

"It just seems fair and right," he said.

Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, said the Legislature is spending beyond its means and driving businesses out of the state, so it deserves a salary reduction.

"If we do a bad job, cut our salary," he said.

But Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, said a new pay cut on the heels of past reductions could prompt potential candidates of modest means not to run.

"I think it makes it harder and harder for someone like myself to serve at this level," said Torres, a former 911 dispatcher.

Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco said he would accept a pay cut graciously – but suspiciously.

"I'd be more comfortable with it if it wasn't so political and punitive," he said. "I'm dubious of their real intent here."

About This Blog

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at or 916-321-1043. Twitter: @TheStateWorker.


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