Supreme Court Gives Green Light to Gann Pay Initiative

Times Staff Writer

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch attempt to remove the pay limitation initiative sponsored by anti-tax crusader Paul Gann from the November election ballot.

The court, in a brief order signed by Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, declined to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the initiative made by three Los Angeles County officials.

Both sides, however, predicted there would be another legal assault on the measure after the election, should it be approved by the voters.

"We're disappointed, of course, but the odds were clearly against the court making a pre-election decision on the issue," said John P. Farrell, principle deputy county counsel. "If it passes, in all likelihood there will be another such challenge . . . but there's hope at least that the voters may not approve it."

Manuel S. Klausner, an attorney representing Gann, called the court's action "a principled result in which all voters should be pleased." He predicted that the initiative would be upheld in any post-election proceedings, calling the challenge to its validity "extremely weak."

The Gann proposal, also known as the Fair Pay Initiative, calls for sweeping pay limitations on state and local employees, including the governor.

Pegged to Governor's Salary

It would set the salary for the state's chief executive at $80,000 annually and restrict other state and local government salaries to 80% of that amount, or $64,000 annually. At present, the governor draws $49,000--but is set to receive $85,000 a year in 1987.

The measure also would prohibit employees from accumulating vacation and sick-leave time from year to year.

Early this month, Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block, Fire Chief Donald O. Manning and Medical Director Sol Bernstein asked the justices to step in and prevent the initiative from being put to a vote.

They called the measure "patently illegal and unconstitutional," saying it violated public employees' rights of contract and due process and improperly overrode state and local authority over public pay scales.

Opponents predicted that countless employees would quit after the election if the measure were approved--or take early retirement before the election rather than risk a sharp cut in pensions, which are based on final salary received. Other workers who saved sick time and vacation time would need to be paid or given time off immediately, they said.

But lawyers for Gann told the court that the measure fully met constitutional standards and branded attempts by opponents to block the initiative as "frivolous" and a "brazen attempt" to thwart the right of the electorate to change the state Constitution through the initiative process.

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