California lawmakers have some extra cash for today’s Cyber Monday shopping: a $5,000 pay raise, their first in six years, goes into effect today.
State legislators’ pay is going up 5.3 percent, to $95,291. But Tom Dalzell, who chairs the commission that sets state officials’ salary, said he “would not characterize it as a pay increase.”
“It’s a partial restoration of cuts that were implemented several years ago,” Dalzell explained. Still, even after dropping from a $116,208 salary to $90,526, California legislators were making more than their counterparts in every other state. The runner-up is Pennsylvania, where lawmakers make $83,802. New York legislators get $79,500 a year. (Of course, that’s not all the legislators in California make. Like their counterparts in most other states, they also get a per diem payment for expenses incurred while the Legislature is in session. Legislators’ averaged more than $26,000 in the tax-free payments for the 12 months ended Nov. 30, 2012, the most recent figure available. The per diem rate is going up, too, to $163 a day.)
The seven-member Citizens Compensation Commission sets state officials’ salaries. The agency was created by Proposition 112 in 1990, and sets salaries using factors like what local officials are making. “Looking at those (local salaries) we find a huge discrepancy between what boards of supervisors are paid and what the legislature is paid,” said Dalzell
Morgan Cullen of the National Conference of State Legislatures said California has a unique setup. “California is just one of four other states where the commission has full authority to raise or lower salaries as they see fit. The others are Idaho, Washington and Oklahoma,” he explained.
About a dozen lawmakers are turning down the pay increase, saying it’s not appropriate while the economy is still struggling.
Gov. Jerry Brown is getting a raise, too. His salary goes up by about $8,000, to $173,987. Unlike California lawmakers, Brown does not lead the national pack. That distinction goes to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who pulls in $187,256.