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State politicians could see smaller paychecks

March 23, 2011 | 11:23 am

California elected officials could see more cuts to their pay and perks when a state panel that sets compensation holds its annual meeting next month, members said Wednesday.

State lawmakers and other elected leaders should have their pay cut by up to 12%, should have per diem expense checks reduced and should lose the perk of state-owned cars, according to Chuck Murray, chairman of the California Citizens Compensation Commission.

"They have to share what everybody else in the state is going through," said Murray, who runs a Los Angeles insurance company. "We have a state budget that is out of control."

Other commissioners, including Kathy Sands, said Wednesday they had not yet decided what should be done at the April 14 meeting in Burbank. But Sands, a former Auburn mayor, said everywhere she goes people tell her that the state’s elected officials are paid too much.

"I think we will do a little trimming," she predicted about the upcoming meeting. "Everything else is getting trimmed.''

The commission, which was approved by the voters and is appointed by the governor, decided two years ago to slash pay and benefits for elected officials, including the governor, by 18%, after most other state employees lost nearly that much when they were ordered to take three unpaid furlough days a month.

That action reduced the salaries for legislators from $116,208 to $95,291.

Last year, the commission decided not to change the pay, after some elected officials complained further cuts would make it harder to attract effective people to elected office in California. The panel also backed away from a proposal last year to take away state-purchased cars from lawmakers.

This year, the state faces a $26-billion budget shortfall.

Commissioner John Stites said he expects the panel will look again at whether to take state cars away from elected officials and have them instead seek reimbursement for use of their own personal vehicles.

"I still think its way overboard for them to continue to have all the perks they have, when the rest of the state is going into the tank," said Stites, a retired sergeant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

-- Patrick McGreevy

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