Citizens Panel Gives Small Boost to Lawmaker Salaries

State Capitol, Sacramento (David Paul Morris/Getty Images).
State Capitol, Sacramento (David Paul Morris/Getty Images).

For the second straight year, the citizens commission that sets salaries for California’s constitutional officers and legislators has approved a bump in pay — with suggestions that those paychecks could be boosted even more in years to come.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission, created by a 1990 voter-approved initiative, on Friday afternoon boosted the pay of state lawmakers by 2 percent, effective in December. Last year, the panel raised lawmaker salaries by 5 percent as part of a restoration in pay that was cut in 2009 by 18 percent.

“I think it’s very fair,” said Scott Somers, a commission member. Somers proposed an even bigger boost in Friday’s meeting, but found little support among the other members of the panel.

The decision means Gov. Jerry Brown’s salary will go up to about $177,467, based on his existing salary. Attorney General Kamala Harris would see her annual pay rise to $154,149. Rank-and-file members of the California Legislature would see their salaries increase to $97,197.

The 2 percent boost was based, said commissioners, on the same-size salary increase slated for managers in the state workforce on July 1. The commission hearing, held in Sacramento, included a discussion of whether to ultimately link increases to inflation. At least two members of the commission also suggested a broader discussion next year of what the long-term base salary should be for state lawmakers.

Some pointed to benefits that high-ranking officials in other states receive that California’s leaders don’t get, like pensions. Other members of the panel pointed out how much less the governor and attorney general are paid than some county supervisors and district attorneys across California.

But others suggested that California’s fiscal health needs more improvement before any substantial changes are made in lawmaker pay.

“We’re not there yet,” said commission member Anthony Barkett.

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John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics and Government Desk.  A veteran of almost two decades of political coverage, he served nine years as the statehouse bureau chief for KQED Public Radio and The California Report, and most recently as political editor for the Sacramento ABC-TV affiliate, News10 (KXTV). John served as moderator of the only 2014 gubernatorial debate, and was recently named by The Washington Post as one of the nation's most influential statehouse reporters.  Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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