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Panel votes to keep lawmakers' salaries unchanged

June 16, 2010 | 11:29 am

Just six months after cutting the pay and benefits of California lawmakers by 18%, a citizens panel decided Wednesday against further reductions even though one member argued more sacrifice is needed because of the state financial crisis.

The Citizens Compensation Commission voted to keep the base salary for legislators at $95,291 for another year. The salaries for the governor and other statewide elected officials will also stay the same as they are after they were reduced by double digits last December.

"I think the 18% cut we made last year was plenty," Commissioner Kathy Sands said. "It was a big hit."

Commissioner Scott Somers argued unsuccessfully for a 5% pay reduction, saying if the Legislature is serious about reducing spending to address a $19-billion budget shortfall that "they need to lead from the top."

But state schools chief Jack O'Connell warned the panel that another pay cut "could be viewed as punitive and frankly would smack of retribution" for lawmakers standing up to the governor on the budget. The commission is appointed by the governor. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not accept a state salary and is in his last year as governor. The panel’s action means the next governor's salary will be $173,987.

California legislators still receive the highest base salary of any state legislature in the country. However, legislative representatives note that a large number of lawmakers in New York and Pennsylvania make a higher amount because of extra pay provided for committee leadership jobs.

-- Patrick McGreevy