California lawmakers and statewide elected officials will have a little extra cash in their pockets this holiday season, with their paychecks set to rise starting Sunday.
The annual increases of nearly $5,000 for rank-and-file members of the state Legislature and nearly $9,000 for Gov. Jerry Brown were approved by the California Citizens Compensation Commission in June, a decision that reversed some of the cuts made during the recession.
Brown's salary will increase to $173,987, up from $165,288 but still below the high mark of $212,179 in 2008. Lawmakers' base pay will rise to $95,291 a year from the current $90,526, although most lawmakers take home an additional $30,000 a year in per diem payments and some receive additional pay for leadership positions.
Even after the previous pay cuts, California lawmakers remained the highest paid in the nation. Unlike their peers in some other states, however, they do not receive pensions. Many other state legislatures also meet infrequently, or even every other year.
The California Legislature is in session, generally, from January to September.
The table below shows the current base salaries and the salaries after the raises.
The increase in pay comes as the state's independent legislative analyst is projecting the state will have annual operating surpluses approaching $10 billion a year by the 2017-18 fiscal year if current spending polices and revenue trends continue.
But analyst Mac Taylor also urged state officials to devote new revenue to paying down debt and reigning in the spiraling costs of retiree health care and pensions for state workers.
The commission's vote in June restored the wages for top elected officials to 2011 levels, amounting to a raise of slightly more than 5 percent of current pay. The panel also voted to have the state contribute more to the cost of the elected officials' health care but stopped short of restoring all the cuts it previously made to health benefits.
The commission previously cut lawmakers' pay by 18 percent, eliminated the state-owned vehicles given to legislators as a perk and rolled back the rate of per diem payments. Representatives of both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders noted that the pay increases were only a partial restoration of the previous cuts.
"Just as he accepted the pay cut ordered by the independent commission set up by the voters, the Speaker will accept the partial restoration of the cut of his salary," said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, in an email.
Perez and his counterpart in the state Senate, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, will have their base salaries rise by more than $5,400, to $109,584.
Voters created the compensation commission in 1990 as part of Proposition 112. Its job is to set salaries and benefits for state lawmakers and the eight constitutional officers elected statewide, including the governor and attorney general. The commission also sets the pay for members of the Board of Equalization, which deals with a wide range of tax issues.
Four of the seven current commissioners were appointed by Brown, a Democrat, while the other three were appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, noted that voters rightfully created the commission "to take salary-making out of the hands of lawmakers. The assemblywoman abides with the independent commission's decisions."
Despite the state's rosier financial picture, Brown has rejected efforts to fully restore the deep spending cuts that were made to state programs during the recession, although he signed contracts this year with state employee unions that included pay raises. That included a 4.5 percent pay raise for workers represented by the Service Employees International Union, the largest state employee labor group.
A spokesman for Brown, Evan Westrup, declined to comment on the pay increases.