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Politics

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to get 4% pay raise

Phil Ting, Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, shakes hands with Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) as he enters the Assembly chambers to deliver his State of the State address in February.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A state panel granted a 4% pay raise to Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislators and other elected officials Friday, citing the booming California economy and big budget surplus.

The raises will bump the base pay of California legislators to $114,877 on Dec. 2, while Newsom’s pay will jump to $209,747. Four-percent raises will also be received by the state attorney general, treasurer, controller, insurance commissioner and other statewide officials.

The pay hikes were approved by the state Citizens Compensation Commission, which is appointed by the governor and required to meet annually to set the pay of elected officials. During the recession of a decade ago, the panel cut salaries, but it has routinely granted raises in recent years.

While raises drew criticism from taxpayer groups, others said they were justified and noted that state officials are underpaid compared with counterparts on city councils and county boards of supervisors.

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The decision to approve raises was based on “what is fair, what is appropriate in light of the economy, in light of the state budget,” said commission Chairman Thomas Dalzell. “The economy is doing well, the state is doing well, and it’s important work that they do.”

The Legislature just approved a budget with a projected surplus of $21.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., questioned the pay levels.

“California still has the highest-paid legislature in the nation,” Coupal said. “They have highly paid politicians in a very dysfunctional state. Quite frankly, I would say the economic health of California is in spite of policy decisions by state officials, not because of them.”

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California’s legislators have long been the highest-paid in the country, but that will come to an end next year when their counterparts in New York are set to receive larger salaries.

Base salaries for New York lawmakers were recently increased from $79,500 to $110,000, but they are scheduled to jump Jan. 1 to $120,000, and then by another $10,000 the year after. The New York governor’s salary is $200,000 but is set to increase by $25,000 next year and another $25,000 the year after.

The California pay panel was provided a survey of salaries from last year that showed California state officials are often paid far less than elected officials and administrators in cities and counties.

The top executive officers of Los Angeles and Alameda counties last year made $457,000 and $501,000 respectively, according to the survey by the commission staff.

The mayor of Los Angeles received a salary of $248,000 while council members took in $190,878 last year, the survey said.

“It’s a certain irony that people are termed out [in state government] and they go make some money on a board of supervisors or a city council,” Dalzell said.

The commission’s action represented the seventh year in a row that raises were given, following 3% increases last year and the year before.

The raises were granted this year even as the public approval rating of the Legislature is slipping. In January, 49% of the public surveyed approved of the way that the state Legislature is handling its job, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. In May, the approval rating dropped to 39%, the institute found.

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The surveys also showed that 45% of adults in May approved of the job being done by Newsom, up from 44% in January.

The raises for legislators come just a few weeks after the Assembly Rules Committee approved a 6% cost-of-living salary increase for state Assembly staff members, saying it is “reflective of the economic conditions in the state.”

One state lawmaker was critical of raises that bump the annual pay of the four elected members of the state Board of Equalization to $157,310. Two years ago, the governor and Legislature stripped the board of most of its powers and duties and reduced the state board from 4,800 workers to just 400.

The downsizing of the board occurred after a series of audits found widespread nepotism and improper interference with decisions to open field offices and transfer staffers, some of whom were assigned to duties that promoted the elected officials.

Because of that, the board’s pay raises were inappropriate, Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-North Hollywood) said.

“It’s actions like this that erode public confidence in everything we do up at the Capitol,” Nazarian said. “This commission is voting to increase the pay for agency officeholders that don’t have 90% of their previous workload. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Nazarian is carrying a bill to ask California voters to eliminate the elected board, and he hopes his colleagues will act on it next year.

Dalzell said he supports looking next year at whether the salaries of the tax board are commensurate with members’ workload and reduced responsibilities.

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The citizens commission was approved by California voters when they passed Proposition 112 in 1990, taking salary-setting powers away from the Legislature.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

Twitter: @mcgreevy99


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