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California lawmakers are the highest paid in the nation, survey finds

March 29, 2010 | 12:19 pm

California state lawmakers remain the highest paid in the nation by far, according to a survey by a state panel that is considering a 10% reduction in their salary.

Despite an 18% pay cut last year, the $95,291 salary of California lawmakers is still higher than the $79,650 paid to their counterparts in Michigan, the $79,500 that goes to legislators in New York and the $78,315 salary in Pennsylvania, according to the survey conducted by the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

Federal statistics show that the cost of living is higher in California than all those other states. The panel meets April 22 to consider reducing the pay of state lawmakers to $85,762, which would still be the highest legislative salary in the country, said Charles Murray, the Los Angeles businessman who chairs the state panel.

"We're broke and we just don’t have the money,’" Murray said, explaining why a 10% pay cut was being considered. "This survey gives us a new baseline."

Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not accept pay, the salary for governor is $173,987. The pay is higher for governors in New York ($179,000), Michigan ($177,000), New Jersey ($175,000) and Pennsylvania ($174,914), the survey found.

California’s lieutenant governor receives $130,490, while the post in New York makes $151,500. The biggest disparity is with the superintendent of public instruction, who makes $151,127 in California, but is paid $275,000 in Florida and $250,000 in New York.

The $109,584 paid to legislative leaders in California puts them behind Pennsylvania and New York, which pay comparable positions $122,254 and $121,000, respectively.

Two state employee unions recently urged the panel not to impose more cuts on elected officials, warning it could discourage qualified people from seeking to serve in the legislature.

"There are valid points made on both sides," Murray said.

-- Patrick McGreevy

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