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California lawmakers set for 5.3% pay hike

Twelve Assembly and Senate members say they won't accept it as many residents struggle to recover from the recession. The governor and other officials will also get raises.

November 28, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will accept his pay raise that takes effect Monday. "I have accepted previous decisions by the independent Citizens Compensation Commission to adjust legislative pay and benefits. I will continue to accept their decisions now."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg will accept his pay raise that… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are set to receive a 5.3% pay raise Monday, but a dozen say they won't accept it in the wake of a tax hike approved last November and while many residents are still struggling to recover from the recent recession.

The raises were approved by the citizen panel that determines state officials' compensation. The base salary for most legislators will go from $90,526 to $95,291 — still below the $116,208 that lawmakers received in 2007, before their pay was cut during California's budget crises.

"I didn't think taking a raise … when we had just raised taxes on all Californians with Prop. 30, really made sense," said Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), one of a dozen legislators who said they were turning down the increase.

Many rank-and-file state workers will receive pay hikes of 4.5% phased in through July 2015, but some lawmakers note that many in the private sector are hurting.

"Since California's economy continues to struggle, with many Californians unemployed or underemployed, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to accept a pay raise," state Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) wrote to the state controller, asking that no raise be included in his paycheck.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) are taking their pay increases.

"I have accepted previous decisions by the independent Citizens Compensation Commission to adjust legislative pay and benefits," Steinberg said in a statement. "I will continue to accept their decisions now."

The commission had cut elected state officials' salaries by 23% since 2008. But in June, citing the state's rosier financial situation, the panel announced raises for legislators and 11 others, including the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general and controller.

Gov. Jerry Brown's salary will go from $165,288 to $173,987 Monday. That figure is below the 2007 level of $212,179 for the governor's job.

"The governor intends to accept the Citizens Compensation Commission's decision," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.

In addition to Allen and Wyland, Sen. Mimi Walters, an Irvine Republican, is refusing the pay hike, as are Republican Assembly members Jim Patterson of Fresno, Eric Linder of Corona, Rocky J. Chavez of Oceanside, Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Allan R. Mansoor of Costa Mesa. Democrats include Assemblyman Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova and state Sens. Richard Roth of Riverside and Lou Correa of Santa Ana.

Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) said he is donating his raise to charities in his district.

Donnelly is running for governor on a platform of fiscal restraint, and Mansoor said California still has too many costly problems to be providing financial rewards to lawmakers.

"Schools are still being shortchanged. Our infrastructure is inadequate and underfunded. We have tons of pension debt. We still have water issues that need to be addressed and funded," Mansoor said. "So let's continue to be a little more responsible in how we manage our government before we give ourselves pay raises and a pat on the back. "

Roth said he rejected the raise because he was elected on his current salary. He, Wyland and Mansoor are among those who said they also would not accept a planned 15% jump in per-diem payments that many lawmakers receive to cover living expenses in Sacramento.

"I guess we'll see how high the cost of living goes up in Sacramento and whether I can continue my principled stand on per diem in future years," he said.

Some lawmakers, including Steinberg and Cooley, do not receive per diem, because their principal home is a short commute from the Capitol.

Legislative officials said the per diem for lawmakers will increase Monday from $141.86, the level the commission cut it to in recent years, to $163. The sum is based on a formula tied to the expense rate set by the federal government.

For lawmakers who averaged about $27,000 in tax-free per diem last year, the change would mean an extra $4,000 annually.

The new per diem remains below the $173 paid before the commission cut it.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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