California lawmakers will take a $5,000 pay raise

November 7, 2013

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the Center for American Progress on Oct. 24. Brown’s paycheck is going back up. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

California legislators, already the best-paid in the nation, will see their paychecks get a little bigger next month after an independent commission decided the state is bringing in enough revenue to justify the increase.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets salary levels for state elected officials, said it will increase the base salary of rank-and-file legislators to $95,291 a year beginning Dec. 1, up 5.3 percent over the $90,526 they were making this year.

As the recession plunged California’s budget into a sea of red ink, even legislators weren’t immune. Legislator salaries peaked in 2007, at $116,208 per year, but the commission began cutting those salaries in 2009. For the last year, the rank-and-file legislator made 78 percent of the 2007 salary.

Legislators faced benefit cuts too. In 2009, the commission cut the amount of per diem pay. In 2011, the commission ended subsidies for lawmakers’ vehicles. The per diem remains high, though: Most legislators receive $141.86 per day of session, which can add up to $30,000 in tax-free pay on top of their salaries.

Other elected officials have seen their own paychecks decline: Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who reclaimed the governor’s mansion in 2011, made $173,987 his first year. The commission cut his pay to $165,288 this year. Brown’s pay will be restored to 2011 levels beginning Dec. 1. Other California constitutional officials will also see their pay increase, by between $6,500 and $7,500 a year.

The commission was established in 1990, after voters passed Proposition 112. In 2009, voters passed another proposition that prohibited the commission from increasing legislator salaries during years in which the state carried a deficit.

California legislators already had the highest salaries in the nation, followed by Pennsylvania lawmakers, who make $83,801 a year, and New York legislators, who haul in $79,500 per annum.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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