Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers to take 5% pay cut

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers will take the same 5% hit to their pay that the governor has proposed for rank-and-file state workers, a state panel decided Thursday.

The Citizens Compensation Commission, created by California voters to set salaries and benefits for certain elected officials, approved the pay reduction for 132 elected state officers two weeks after Brown proposed the cut, through a workweek reduction, for other state employees.

Officials should share the pain they are imposing on civil service workers even if it makes only a small dent in the nearly $16-billion budget deficit, Commissioner Charles Murray said. The panel’s action will save the state about $657,000 a year.

“I think we will send a message that we have to get out of this hole,” he said. “Everybody has to sacrifice.”

The vote was 5 to 1, and the pay reduction will kick in Dec. 3.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) called the panel’s move “unfortunate,” noting that it comes on top of an 18% slice the commission took from the officials’ pay three years ago when other state workers were put on furloughs.

Given that the furloughs have ended but the 18% reduction remains, Perez said, “we believe the commission’s cut is punitive and ignores the size and complexity of the job and the facts regarding comparable legislative bodies.”

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), who made an unsuccessful challenge to the previous cuts, said the commission’s action hurts the state by making it hard for average citizens to get involved in public service as lawmakers.

“We’re clearly heading in the direction where only the wealthy can serve,” Cedillo said. “We [legislators] have to live in two cities, our regular costs are doubled and our salaries may not be able to accommodate that.”

In addition to the governor and legislators, the lieutenant governor, attorney general, controller, treasurer, members of the state Board of Equalization and others will have their pay reduced.

The governor proposed in May to reduce the workweek for many state employees from 40 to 38 hours as a way of cutting payroll by 5%. On Thursday, Brown seemed to take it in stride that his annual salary will shrink from $173,987 to $165,288.

“Look, I’d run for governor whether it was a paid job or not,” he told reporters. “I derive a lot of psychic income.”

Even at his current salary, the governor is paid less than state judges and many county administrators, said Commission Chairman Thomas Dalzell, who abstained from the vote but voiced opposition to the panel’s action.

He said the legislators’ annual $95,291 pay puts them on par with skilled construction workers, and their new pay will be $90,527.

“To cut them further boggles my mind,” Dalzell said.

Although California provides the highest base pay for legislators of any state in the country, Commissioner Ruth Lopez Novodor said other states provide their lawmakers with pensions, which current California officials do not receive.

Novodor cast the only vote against the pay cut, arguing that the 18% reduction approved in 2009 brought the officials’ salaries close enough to those of comparable positions.

“I believe that we are at equilibrium already,” she said.

Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report.