10.01.2008 0

California Commission Won’t Cut State Salaries

  • On: 10/13/2008 12:15:01
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • California is facing a major budget crisis—to the tune of $15.2 billion. Although they had been warned three years ago that a budget shortfall was coming, the California state government continued to spend wildly, which has led to the current situation, with spending outpacing revenues yet again.

    So now, with revenues slumping, California is trying to find a way to balance the budget, lawmakers even willing to consider cutting “important” social programs, if necessary. Sadly, the same standard doesn’t seem to apply to legislator’s salaries.

    This week, the California Citizens Compensation Commission announced that it narrowly defeated a move to cut legislators’ salaries by 10 percent (the same percentage of cuts which the budget may face), and instead will freeze them at current levels.

    Despite the fact that the commission was set up by voters, some question whether the legislature is side-stepping the issue, using the commission as cover to avoid blame. “It’s the thing you do when you don’t have the guts to do what you need to do,” said Ted Costa, of the fiscal watchdog group, People’s Advocate. Earlier this year, the California Senate Rules Committee had voted 3-1 against a bill that would have prohibited the commission from raising pay during budget shortfalls.

    And legislators do not have to abide by the commission’s ruling. In 2005, the commission approved a pay raise—and 14 legislators refused it. Two years earlier, after winning in a special recall election, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger voluntarily refused to accept his salary.

    California lawmakers
    earn over $116,000 per year—plus a per diem for expenses. The New Hampshire legislator, which at 400 members is the third largest lawmaking body in the English-speaking world, pays $100 a year to its legislators.

    Perhaps California should follow New Hampshire’s example. While the $13.9 million they would save would be just a drop in the bucket, it would show the people of California—at whose pleasure they serve—that they are serious about fixing the budget crisis they helped create.

    ALG Perspective:
    Legislators need to be paid in proportion to their work. California legislators receive significantly more than the second-best paid legislatures in the US. They work nearly full-time. Yet for all that, they still plunge their state into massive budget crises time and again. While a pay freeze is certainly better than a pay raise, California’s governing body should not be allowed to mutilate the state budget without feeling any of the pain they are inflicting on the populace with their wasteful spending.

    All honest legislators in California should voluntarily cut their pay until the budget crisis is solved. Concerned citizens in California can contact the legislature here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html

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