Now that California’s legislators have successfully pushed through tax increases and put the state budget back in the black, they deserve a bonus, don’t they? At least, that’s what an independent commission thinks, which has approved a 5.3 percent pay raise and a 10 percent increase in health care contributions for California state politicians (who, by the way, are already the highest-paid lawmakers in the country).
These raises are apparently meant to offset cuts imposed a few years ago, back when California had major fiscal problems. But that was then and this is now—and look how much NY pols are making:
Although California legislators have the highest base pay in the nation, a recent study indicated that they earn less than their counterparts in New York when one considers various assignment pay and pension add-ons, a point that seemed to sway some commissioners.
So two debt-ridden, underperforming states are now vying to make their public officials the highest paid in the nation. When we’ve spoken in the past about state-level competition, this isn’t exactly the kind of competition we had in mind.
It’s worth remembering that despite the recent surplus and tax hikes, Governor Jerry Brown has cited California’s battered economic condition as a reason for deciding not to restore funding quite yet to certain state programs. Now the extra cash is being used to justify making California pols America’s best-paid lawmakers, a distinction we’re not entirely sure they have earned.
One of the pay commission’s “compensation experts” explained why this is a bad idea:
“The state has a terrible history of relying on total revenue in upside years because as we all know we’re so heavily dependent on income tax, which frankly is even exacerbated more this year,” Somers said. “It’s just very difficult for elected officials to keep their hands off the money if they feel like it’s there. And we end up voting for ongoing expenditures, and the revenue falls off and we’re in big trouble.”
That’s Commissioner Scott David Somers. Oh, by the way, he voted for the pay raises.
[Pay Raise image courtesy of Shutterstock]