SACRAMENTO (AP) — An appointed citizen panel voted Wednesday to give Gov. Jerry Brown and other top elected officials 4 percent pay raises, marking the fourth year in a row that their salaries have been increased after cuts were made at the height of the recession.
The Citizens Compensation Commission approved the salary and benefit increases on a 4-0 vote after less than an hour of discussion, bringing Brown’s pay to about $190,000 a year and the heads of the state Senate and Assembly to nearly $120,000.
Commission Chairman Tom Dalzell says even with the increase, lawmakers’ salaries are still below their rates at the start of the recession, when the panel voted to cut pay by about 18 percent.
“This will bring it up to about 90 percent of where we were in 2007, simply a restorative measure, incremental,” Dalzell said in an interview after the vote. He said while other state employees were furloughed during the recession, none had their pay cut as extremely and all the wages have since been restored.
Brown’s pay will increase from about $183,000 while rank-and-file California lawmakers — already the best-compensated in the nation — will make salaries of a little more than $104,000. They can reject the raises if they choose.
Health and dental benefits for statewide elected officials will remain the same.
Lawmakers are also eligible for a $176 daily cost-of-living allowance, but they don’t get pensions. During the recession, the commission also eliminated lawmakers’ state-owned vehicles.
Commissioner Anthony Barkett noted that the meeting opened with members receiving a report that the state’s rainy day fund is in stable financial health, and the budget is generally in good shape.
“We’re not affecting the budget that much, so it’s largely ceremonial in that we make these increases — or decreases for that matter,” he said.
The raises take effect in December and come out of operating budgets for government offices, so the moves won’t necessarily mean additional costs for taxpayers.
The commission’s vote followed a 3 percent increase last year, 2 percent raise in 2014 and a 5 percent increase in 2013.
The commission was created by voters in 1990 to take salary-making out of the hands of lawmakers. Members are appointed by governors, with Brown appointing all four current members.
The commission sets salaries and benefits for state lawmakers and the eight constitutional officers elected statewide, as well as for members of the Board of Equalization, which deals with a wide range of tax issues.
Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, declined to comment on the pay increase.
Spokesmen for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, both Los Angeles Democrats, noted that while they have no role in the process, the leaders will abide by the panel’s decisions.
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