Opinion: Crisis 18% salary slash for California officials isn’t 100% what it seems


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Boy oh boy, did California voters show bickering state officials a thing or two with their slam-dunk downing of five out of six financial propositions in Tuesday’s voting. As The Ticket reported then, they didn’t just say No; they said No way!

In rapid response, first thing Wednesday something called the California Citizens Compensation Commission announced on a 5-1 vote that it had slashed the salaries of the governor, attorney general, controller, all legislators and other top elected state officials by 18%.


That’s nearly 20%! Whacked. Because in a democracy, top elected officials should share the hard times and pay a price too.

This was immediately trumpeted around the world as evidence of prompt crisis action by a state heeding the verdict of voters and facing what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says are massive cuts to cover a $21.3-billion budget deficit.

The governor, who loses nothing because he’s declined to accept any salary since taking office, immediately hailed those cuts:

The California Citizens Compensation Commission took the right action today in voting to reduce the salaries of the state’s elected officials by 18%.

The people of California have spoken loud and clear: they want the state to live within its means and do not want any more government waste or pay raises for California’s elected officials.

I completely agree and that is why I have cut back in my own office and ordered layoffs of state employees to save money. The state’s elected officials need to follow suit and cut back just as California families and businesses have in this tough economy.

The governor also listed reductions he’s already made in his own office, including slashing staff by 27 slots to 147 with more to come and reducing hours and pay for all employees by 9.3%.

Schwarzenegger and other top officials began immediate meetings on billions in cuts as others across the Golden State began publicly wringing their hands over what was coming.


But the concrete news of the day was the urgent 18% pay slashes by the compensation commission. Now, here’s the really small print contained in that well-publicized crisis announcement:

The pay cuts for officials to share the hard times with voters don’t take effect for seven months. Not until 2010.

Commission members said their lawyer said the reductions would be impossible to implement during this calendar year. That’s how serious and urgent this state budget crunch really is.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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