California governor, lawmakers get raises

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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A state panel approved a 5 percent pay raise for Gov. Jerry Brown and all 120 California legislators on Wednesday.

The panel also signed off on increasing state funding for elected officials’ health benefits by 10 percent.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Citizens Compensation Commission vote boosted Brown’s salary from $165,288 to $173,987 and raised state legislators’ pay from $90,520 to $95,291.

The commission voted five to one to approve the raises, noting that the California economy had improved and that the budget had been balanced with a $1 billion reserve fund. Only one commissioner, John Stites, opposed the decision to give California lawmakers more money saying that while California’s economy had improved the state’s financial situation was still fragile.

“Now is not the time for a raise,” said Stites.

While the state’s economy has improved since the recession, the unemployment rate remains at 9 percent as of April — significantly higher than the national average of 7.5 percent.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the state’s net worth is in the red by $127.2 billion after running a $1.7 billion spending deficit last year. After several years of spending more than it takes in, the state accumulated a deficit of nearly $23 billion, and the state’s long-term debt obligations were reported at $167.9 billion.

However, the improving economic situation was justification enough for commissioners to approve pay raises for legislators.

“The governor has done a fantastic job of getting the tax initiative passed and the economic climate, while not completely restored, is on the right trajectory,” said Commissioner Wilma Wallace. “And I believe that it is important to acknowledge that the Legislature has stepped up and that they deserve to have the 5% reinstated.”

Brown has also offered a 4.5 percent pay raise to the largest state employee union, to be phased in over a two-year period.

The LA Times also notes: “During the last four years, the commission had cut the pay of 132 elected state officials by 23% in reaction to the recession and its damage to the budget, which resulted in furloughs for rank-and-file state workers.”

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