State officials take action over Bell controversy

August 19, 2010 7:03:47 PM PDT
Outrage over the exorbitant salaries paid to public officials in a small Southern California town is leading to action in Sacramento. State lawmakers joined together to protect the public from it happening again, but that seems to be all they can agree on, and time is running out on some even more critical money matters.State lawmakers showed bi-partisan outrage over the excessive pay the city of Bell gave its leaders, including former city manager, Robert Rizzo, who made nearly $800,000 a year.

Sacramento is pushing a package of six bills aimed at preventing other cities from offering similar compensation.

Bell officials violated that trust, abused their privilege and committed unforgivable offense," Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Senate President, said.

The crackdown on excessive pay includes:

  • Requiring charter cities, like Bell, to be penalized by the state for paying more than allowed for traditional cities.
  • Anything above would be slapped with a 50 percent personal income tax.
  • Banning automatic raises.
  • And limiting severance pay to no more than one year's salary.
But some people wonder why lawmakers can't come together the same way, on a state budget, which is now almost two months late.

California is on the brink of issuing IOUs again, a new round of furloughs for state workers begins on Friday and public schools are starting without knowing how much they're getting.

On Wednesday, members of the disabled community blocked a major Capitol street to protest the proposed budget cuts to their services. No budget means they don't know what to plan for.

"They definitely should be working on the budget. No question about it. When people's lives and their whole family situations are at stake, then the budget needs to be worked on," public school teacher Michael Schneider.

State leaders point out they can work on multiple issues at the same time.

"I don't think we should hold out creating these reforms that are essential just because we haven't resolved all the elements of the budget yet," Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said.

The Bell scandal came to light just a few weeks ago and Perez vows that crackdown proposals will be approved by the end of the month. However, he couldn't say the same for the state budget.

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