SACRAMENTO — Legislators and other elected state officials appeared to be headed for a pay cut after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday endorsed a reduction and appointed new members, who he said were like-minded, to a panel that sets the salaries.
The California Citizens Compensation Commission, which determines the pay for legislators, the governor and other officers, moved Wednesday to slice 10% from the salaries, noting that they are higher than in many other states and that the Golden State is in poor financial shape.
"Given the economy, the budget . . . to vote for a decrease across the board is the only way we should go," said commission Chairman Charles Murray, who owns an insurance business in Los Angeles.
A decrease would apply to officials elected next year. Current officeholders would have their pay frozen through December 2010.
The commission on Wednesday voted 3 to 1 for the pay cut, then learned from its attorney that four "yes" votes would be required. There were three vacancies on the board when it met. But Schwarzenegger quickly named people to fill them who "share my belief that state government needs to cut back just like every California family and business is doing," he said in a statement.
Schwarzenegger appointed Glendale business executive Scott Somers, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. John Stites and AT&T Vice President Denita Willoughby of Los Angeles.
The three new commissioners, who do not require confirmation, did not return calls seeking comment. Meanwhile, Murray said he would schedule another vote by June 1.
The 10% pay cut was proposed by Commissioner Kathy Sands, who noted that most state employees had their pay reduced by 9.2% starting in February, when Schwarzenegger ordered them on twice-monthly unpaid furloughs.
"So many people have already had salary decreases. . . . I think we are in a terrible fiscal challenge," Sands said.
Cutting officials' pay is necessary, she added, "so they can really share in this [budget] deficit that they helped create."
The lone vote against the pay squeeze was by Commissioner William Feyling, a carpenters union official. Feyling said he would vote for a 5% cut.
"While I understand the emotion behind" the 10% proposal, he said, "I don't believe it produces the effect we're seeking." He noted that the reduction would not affect those currently in office.
Legislators did not protest the planned cuts.
"The voters set up the commission as an independent entity, so of course we'll respect whatever decision it makes," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
The panel was established in June 1990 through voters' passage of Proposition 112 and must meet at least once a year to set pay and benefits. Murray said the commission needs to review officials' benefits to determine whether those also should be altered, but that effort has been hampered by the state's failure to provide an analysis of them. He has renewed his request for that information, he said.
A survey prepared in recent months by the state personnel department showed that the annual salaries of $212,000 for the governor and $116,208 for state legislators are much higher than in eight other states surveyed, including New York and Texas.
Although Schwarzenegger accepts no salary, his official pay is higher than the $179,000 paid to the governor of New York. The next-highest pay for legislators is $79,650, in Michigan. California's controller, secretary of state, insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor are also paid more than their counterparts in other states.
The study found that the pay for California's schools chief and treasurer rank fourth and second, respectively, among the states surveyed.