Ex-leader of panel that cut pay, perks for California lawmakers steps down

Leader of panel that brought about pay cuts for legislators is stepping down

Charles Murray, the controversial official who led the move to cut the salaries of the governor and Legislature by 18% in 2009 and to take away lawmakers’ district cars two years later, resigned Friday from the state Citizens Compensation Commission.

Murray, who is president of a Los Angeles insurance company, was chairman of the commission in 2009 when it slashed the salaries of state elected officials by 18%, citing similar reductions in pay that had been forced on rank-and-file state workers by the governor and Legislature during a budget crisis.

That action cut the pay of legislators from $116,208 to $95,291, which was still the highest base pay for lawmakers in the country.

The actions were criticized by some lawmakers and drew a legal claim, later dismissed, that the panel had overstepped its authority.

“It was the right thing to do at the right time,” Murray said Friday in an interview. In 2011, Murray was removed as chairman by Gov. Jerry Brown on the eve of another important vote, but still managed to get majority support to eliminate a perk that gave legislators state-owned cars for use in their districts.

Murray and Commissioner Scott Somers, whose term ended Dec. 31, 2014, were the last remaining members of the panel appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Somers also was part of the majority that slashed salaries and took away lawmakers' cars.

With the economy improving and the state budget flush again, the panel has given state officials 7.3% in raises over the last two years, partially restoring their pay.

In a notice to the governor and other commissioners, Murray said his resignation would be effective Sunday.

“It has been a pleasure to serve on the Commission and especially with its current Chairman, Tom Dalzell,  who I have advised of my decision,” Murray wrote. “Unfortunately personal issues will prevent me from continuing to be an effective member.”

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