California Governor Jerry Brown shrugged off the pay cut that's soon to lighten his wallet.
"I'd run for governor whether it was a paid job or not," the 74-year old, two-time governor told the San Jose Mercury News. "I derive a lot of psychic income."
Hopefully the 120 members of the state's legislature (as well as a small handful of other top elected officials) share the former Jesuit seminarian's characteristically zen outlook. This week, the California Citizens Compensation Commission agreed to reduce the pay of the state's top officeholders by five percent.
This cut comes in the wake of 2009's 18-percent salary reduction. Legislators will henceforth earn $95,291 per year and the governor will take home $165,288.
Intangible job benefits withstanding, Brown would be hard-pressed to complain about any cuts to his salary as he's pushing for the majority of state employees to take similar reductions in an effort to plug California's $16 billion budget hole. The governor is hoping to shift to a 9.5-hour, four days a week schedule, which would more or less come out to a five percent pay cut for most employees.
"The governor wants public employees to take a 5 percent pay cut, and legislators are public employees," said Commissioner Chuck Murray explained to the Los Angeles Times. "I would vote to bring legislators in line with what the governor is doing with other public employees."
2009's reduction also came after Brown's predecessor, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, slashed the pay of government workers by an equivalent amount.
The Sacramento Bee notes that Brown isn't exactly hurting for cash:
His 2012 financial disclosure form includes six interests valued at between $100,001 and $1 million and he is eligible to receive a pension based on previous stints as governor, attorney general and secretary of state. During his 2010 gubernatorial bid, his campaign said he would receive an annual pension of $79,536 if he retired the following year.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is particularly pleased with the decision to reduce salaries. "We're clearly heading in the direction where only the wealthy can serve," Los Angeles Assemblyman Gil Cedillo complained to the Los Angeles Times. "We [legislators] have to live in two cities, our regular costs are doubled and our salaries may not be able to accommodate that."
California lawmakers still remain the highest paid in the country--despite the institution's paltry 17 percent approval rating among likely voters in a Public Policy Institute of California poll released earlier this month.
However, NBC Los Angeles argues that, because a number of factors have centralized the vast majority of governmental power in Sacramento, Golden State lawmakers are actually underpaid for the amount of work they do:
Because other states are less centralized, being a legislator elsewhere is often a part-time seasonal job with little pay. Legislatures meet for 90 days and go home.
When you compare California legislative pay by the number of people represented and the number of days worked and the number of issues that are their responsibility, our lawmakers are among the lowest paid in the country.
While the commission was able to enact a pay cut, it's having difficulty scaling back some of the lawmakers' other perks. Over the past few years, the seven-member panel has axed the money given to per diem living expenses and scrapped a program that purchased cars and lent them out at discounted rates. The commission's own attorney has concluded that said cuts were unlawful, and the group is having difficulty finding another government lawyer who will render a different opinion.
The body is currently seeking approval to secure an outside counsel.
On a related note, the state Assembly passed a bill earlier this week to end a program that gave lawmakers the ability to buy vehicle license plates at a discounted rate of $12. Now they'll have to pay between $49 and $98 just like everyone else.
Check out this video detailing California increasingly dire budgetary situation:
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