No Pay Cut for State Lawmakers

Despite a poor performance review in March, the base salary for lawmakers will remain at about $95,000

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010  |  Updated 7:20 AM PDT
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California state Sen. Robert Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) holds his head in his hands during a budget negotiating session of the state Senate on Feb. 17, 2009 in Sacramento.

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California lawmakers will continue to receive the highest base salary of any state legislature in the country.

After cutting lawmakers' pay last year, the independent commission that determines compensation for legislators said that's enough for now. The Citizens Compensation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the base salary at $95,291 for another year.

Assembly and Senate leaders make about $109,500 per year.

Last year, the commission slashed salaries by 18 percent for the 120 members of the Legislature and statewide officeholders. Per diem pay and benefits also were reduced in December.

"I think the 18 percent cut we made last year was plenty," Commissioner Kathy Sands told the LA Times. "It was a big hit."

At a time when lawmakers are locked in a familiar budget dispute with the governor, officials argued that docking pay might appear punitive. Commissioners are appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Commissioner Scott Somers backed a 5-percent reduction. His motion failed to get a second, according to the Fresno Bee.

A raise was out of the question. Last year, voters ok'd a measure that prevents pay increases during years in which the state faces a budget deficit. This year, California is looking at a $19 billion deficit.

The commission's vote came one day after lawmakers missed the constitutional deadline to pass a budget.

Steady Climb From $52,000 to $116,208

Voters created the commission in 1990, meaning lawmakers could no longer set their own pay. At that time, lawmakers' annual salaries were at $52,500.

Salaries remained at that level until 1994 when pay jumped to $72,000. Another significant bump occurred 1998 when salaries increased from $78,624 to $99,000. They reached an all-time high of $116,208 in 2007.

As for the lawmakers' performance review, that was delivered in March. A Field Poll showed just 13 percent of voters approve of the job lawmakers are doing.

Salaries for the governor and other elected officials also will remain the same. That means the winner of the November gubernatorial election will make $173,987.

Schwarzenegger does not accept a state salary.

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