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Panel meets to consider pay cut for lawmakers [Updated]

April 22, 2010 |  2:36 pm

California lawmakers and other elected officials could see their pay cut up to 10% and lose their taxpayer-funded cars under proposals taken up Thursday by a panel that sets the salaries.

The Citizens Compensation Commission, which is appointed by the governor, put off a vote until June to allow the Department of Finance to issue a required report on whether the state budget is in deficit.

Committee Chairman Charles Murray said the $20-billion deficit facing the state warrants some scaling back of the pay and perks enjoyed by legislators, and a majority of the six-person panel seemed to agree.

"It’s just a matter of how much,’’ Murray said, adding a cut of 5% to 10% is being looked at. "The state is broke. It is having to cut back. Elected officials should share in some of that reduction."

Commissioner John Stites, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, agreed that some decrease in pay and benefits is likely for lawmakers.

"They are continuing to demand more reduction from state employees. I view legislators as state employees," he said.

Stites is heading a parallel study for the panel, looking into the idea of ending the state practice of buying cars for legislators and instead paying them mileage or some other reimbursement for using their own cars on state business.

"Here the state is paying for their insurance, their gas, their repairs and buying them a car," Murray said. "I think the die has been cast, and we’re going to have a dramatic change in the auto program."

Former state Sen. David Roberti and legislators argued that another pay cut would be too much on top of an 18% reduction in pay and benefits imposed on elected officials in December. Some lawmakers have been concerned that the threat of a pay cut was being held over them by the governor-appointed panel to wrest concessions on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposals for the budget and his nomination of state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) to be lieutenant governor.

Just before the Assembly voted Thursday to confirm Maldonado, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) complained that there appeared to be an "implicit link" between the vote on Maldonado and possible pay cuts.

“The bartering that began with Maldonado’s agreement to vote for new taxes in exchange for an open primary ballot measure has now ended with Speaker John Perez’s commitment to confirm him if Gov. Schwarzenegger blocked legislators’ pay cuts,’’ Devore said after the vote.

That remark sparked this quip from Pérez spokeswoman Shannon Murphy. “Speaker Pérez thinks the Revenue & Taxation Committee might want to look into collecting the taxes on whatever it is Mr. DeVore is smoking,’’ Murphy said.

Murray said the commission is independent and not considering other issues, such as the Maldonado appointment. "That’s not our job," he said.

-- Patrick McGreevy