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Many Californians continue to struggle through the incredibly-slow economic recovery… wages in many areas are stagnant, employment opportunities are difficult to find and November tax hikes and Obamacare stand as further obstacles to any growth. During all this, wouldn’t it be nice if people could simply approve raises for themselves? Too bad not everyone can buddy up to California’s so-called “citizen panel”, this is the commission that sets the pay of California lawmakers which has recently approved a 5.3% pay raise for California lawmakers.
Most legislators will enjoy an increase in salary from $90,526 to $95,291. Lawmakers are still paid lower than the bloated $116,208 salaries that were paid in 2007. Due to the recession and the state’s gloomy budget outlooks, salaries were cut in 2008 but now it looks like in a few years the bloat will return, regardless of how well the economy performs. Back in June, this “citizen panel” announced the raises and cited the state’s improving financial situation… maybe they failed to consider that improvement is being gained on the backs of the private sector, now saddled with higher state taxes.
Several lawmakers have voiced desires to turn down the increase in pay, simply because they feel they shouldn’t benefit while so many taxpayers continue to struggle. Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) stated his reason: “I didn’t think taking a raise… when we had just raised taxes on all Californians with Prop 30, really made sense.” He wasn’t alone in holding that general point-of-view. State Senator Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) put it this way: “Since California’s economy continues to struggle, with many Californians unemployed or underemployed, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to accept a pay raise.”
A dozen or so state representatives overall are seeking ways to refuse their pay increase, though that leaves a vast majority quietly accepting theirs. Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Governor Brown (whose salary will increase from $165,288 to $173,987) said “The governor intends to accept the Citizens Compensation Commission’s decision”. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez (both Democrats) are accepting their pay increases out of similar reasoning.
Aside from the pay increase, a tidy little item known as per-diem is also rising for lawmakers, increasing from $141.86 to $163. A pretty nice bump for lunch and gas money to receive every day, don’t you think? This translates annually to a total of over $30,000 per year in tax-free compensation on top of salary. Of course, these raises amount to a mere trickle in the ocean of California’s state budget but this is really a moral question. Is it right for our legislators to accept a raise such as this while knowing that the majority of Californians are at best just keeping their jobs with stagnate wages or they have been reduced to a part time employee with no healthcare benefits? Not to mention the countless number of citizens still looking for work. Leaders set examples so here is a prime opportunity to witness what our ‘leaders’ choose to do or not to do.