Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown certainly knows how to warm the hearts of Californians who are angry at their government: slash politicians' salaries. Last week he signed off on the full 18% reduction ordered earlier this year by the independent panel that sets official pay.
But Brown went one satisfying step further. The Citizens Compensation Commission had ordered the reduction to begin next year when new lawmakers take office, and the Legislature asked the attorney general if that was legal. Not only are the pay cuts legal, he said, they can start right now.
Not always the best at learning from their mistakes, lawmakers are considering whether to challenge Brown's opinion. They should be careful. If the last challenge brought the cuts sooner, maybe the next challenge will make them retroactive. It's not likely, but it's fun to think about.
It's not that Californians take pleasure in inflicting financial pain on their elected officials. OK, maybe we do. And why not? Residents are suffering from monumental levels of unemployment, taxes are up and many state employees have been forced to take unpaid time off. Politicians should not expect to collect their full pay when other workers, public and private, must make do with less. Elected officials should gracefully accept the cuts. Most state senators, to their credit, already have taken a voluntary 5% reduction.