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Cut in lawmakers' pay is OK, in Jerry Brown's opinion

November 19, 2009 | 11:44 am

The state attorney general today said a citizens commission acted within its powers when it decided to slash pay for state lawmakers by 18% last summer, rejecting arguments of legislative leaders who had challenged the panel’s authority.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said in a broad legal opinion that the state Constitution allows the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which is appointed by the governor, to reduce the salaries of legislators and other elected officials in the middle of their terms.

The commission had previously been told by an attorney for the state personnel department that salary cuts could only be applied to those elected in the future, so the panel voted to cut salaries for those elected starting next year.

Charles Murray, the Los Angeles businessman who chairs the commission said he would ask the state controller to implement the pay reduction Dec. 7

Brown pointed to the voters' 1990 approval of Proposition 112, which requires the commission to "adjust the annual salaries of state officers" each year. "Any other interpretation would require assuming against all evidence that the voters in 1990 intended mid-term annual adjustments to only go up and never down, even in the face of a faltering economy and huge budget deficits," Brown wrote to legislative leaders.

His opinion did not address a challenge to the commission’s 18% cut in legislators’ per diem and car allowances.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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