Commentary: Why I rejected a legislative pay raise

A number of my colleagues received a taxpayer-funded pay increase, which took effect Dec. 2, to compensate them for their legislative duties. I did not.

I have decided to reject a 5.3% pay increase for legislators, which was granted by the California Citizens Compensation Commission, a seven-member panel of gubernatorial appointees. I have also instructed the state controller not to increase my per diem, which would also increase by 15% the same day. The increase does not benefit any local residents or California as a whole.

I believe it would be irresponsible to accept more money from the taxpayers at this time. The Legislature is known for having the "power of the purse," and as an elected member of that body, I have a personal responsibility to those I represent to advocate the use of that power in a manner that best addresses the needs of our state. The public purse is not a giving tree for Sacramento's politicians, and I believe the people I represent, and the California taxpayers, will see this move as an insult.

This past election cycle, voters approved a measure to temporarily increase taxes under the threat of cuts to our public education system, yet our schools are still being underfunded and our college students are graduating each year with higher student debt. Legislators should not be taking pay raises, regardless of whether a Citizen Compensation Commission thinks it's warranted, when we cannot adequately fund our education system on permanent revenue streams.

In addition, we have a critical need of updating our water infrastructure, we are facing a mountain of pension debt and both big and small businesses are struggling to keep up with Sacramento red tape and over-regulation.

California's economy is not out of the woods. We are still slowly recovering from deep setbacks that began during 2008's economic recessionThere are a number of grave cuts that were taken across the board in both the public and private sectors.

I do not believe our work on the budget is done, nor does it appropriately reflect the priorities of California. I have spoken with many taxpayers, voters, citizens and residents throughout my term in the Assembly about a variety of beneficial priorities that California could focus its resources on. Increasing my own pay has never been one of them.

Too many Californians have lost their jobs, taken pay cuts, foregone bonuses, salary increases and promotions. While this is happening I cannot in good conscience accept more funds from those same people.

Would the funds from the 5% pay increase and 15% per diem increase adequately address all these problems or California's woes?

Of course not. I'm not making the case that they would.

Instead, the symbolism of elected officials giving themselves a pat on the back while our constituents continue to suffer during this slow recovery is not something I can live with. At a time when we need to restore taxpayers' trust in our government, this move sends the message that Sacramento serves itself before its residents. I cannot be part of that.

Assemblyman ALLAN MANSOOR (R-Costa Mesa) is a candidate for Orange County supervisor.

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