Nov. 17, 2009 — At the same time California workers see a 10 percent increase in their state withholdings, called “accelerated withholdings,” state lawmakers are fighting to block an 18 percent pay reduction they are set to get next month. (We should note that the state is just “borrowing” the accelerated withholdings. Sounds like “Wimpy” accounting to us: Lawmakers will gladly pay us tomorrow for a hamburger today.)
The Citizens Compensation Commission voted last May to impose the salary cut and an additional 18 percent cut in living expenses and car allowances for legislators. Now, legislators are challenging the cuts. They are asking the state attorney general to determine whether the scheduled cuts are legal.
The Legislature says its top legal counsel believes the commission overstepped its bounds when it ordered the cuts for per diem and car allowances. On the other hand, the commission’s chairman, Los Angeles businessman Charles Murray, says his panel has an expert legal opinion from an attorney at U.C. Hastings College of Law that says the commission did have the power to order the cuts.
The attorney general’s office issued an opinion in June that said the commission did not have the authority to cut pay for sitting legislators, but it could do so for those elected in the future.
Regardless of the final legal determination, the court of public opinion has already made its ruling. Murray stated the obvious when he told reporters the Legislature’s challenge could backfire. He pointed out many state employees are already being forced to take three unpaid furlough days each month and many other Californians have no job at all.
The office of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass approved the letter asking for the attorney general’s opinion. Representatives for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he did not approve the challenge before it was filed.
The challenge also complained the commission picked on legislators while excluding other elected state leaders. However, the commission ultimately included cuts for other elected officials.
All of which leads us to say: Thank goodness for the common sense of the citizens’ commission, which sees clearly that elected officials should not be rewarded for poor performance, and shame on our representatives who continue to have no clue.
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