Panel cuts Gov. Brown, lawmakers' pay 5 percent

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his proposed tax initiative during his appearance at the 87th Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Brown wants voters to approve temporary increases in the state sales and income taxes as part of what he described as a series of step to help California recover from the recession without deeper cuts to education and social services.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

May 31, 2012 7:12:00 PM PDT
The governor, along with state lawmakers and other top officials in California are getting a taste of their own medicine. Their salaries are being cut.

Voters empowered the Citizens Compensation Commission in 1990 to set the salaries of state politicians. And Thursday, members approved a 5 percent pay cut for not only lawmakers, but also Gov. Jerry Brown and other statewide elected officials. It'll save less than $700,000 a year, which is really minuscule considering the budget deficit at $16 billion. The governor himself proposed a 5 percent pay cut to state workers.

"It'll send a message that we have to move on. We have to get out of this hole. Everybody has to sacrifice," said Charles Murray from the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

For the average rank-and-file lawmaker, their pay will go down $5,000 to just over $90,000 a year.

The 5 percent pay cut is on top of the 18 percent pay cut lawmakers received in 2009. This one will take effect in December. But they will still get their tax-free $142 a day per diem for living expenses while in Sacramento.

Single mom Assm. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is of modest means and says only wealthy people will run for office.

"Continued reduction in our salary is going to make it tough for women like me to be public servants," said Mitchell.

Some feel the pay cut is punitive; they've already lost their state cars this year. Others accept it as a sign of the times.

"I think it's fair for us as legislators to show leadership at this time and do what we can," said Assm. Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.

The governor is OK with his pay cut to $165,000.

"Look, I'd run whether it was paid or not. I derive a lot of psychic income," said Brown.

The Commission says California lawmakers still earn the highest salary of all state legislators in the country, but when you consider their total compensation which does not include a pension, they're no longer at the top.