I’m no legal scholar, but Attorney General Jerry Brown’s decision yesterday to allow for an 18 percent salary cut for the state’s lawmakers and constitutional officers was a political no-brainer. The budget is in woeful deficit, unemployment is at record levels, public employees are on furlough – of course, the state lawmakers must share the pain.
The fact that legislators tried to avoid the pay cut during these difficult times separates them even further from average citizens. Legislators claim their fingerprints are not on the request seeking the opinion on the legality of the cuts. The administrators of the Senate and Assembly made the request to Brown. Right. And, I’m prepared to buy that bridge in Brooklyn.
The state’s independent pay commission authorized the cut in May. Commission chairman Charles Murray, in agreeing with the attorney general’s opinion, said on this issue, “We represent the average Californian.”
He’s right. The proof is the result of the only ballot measure that passed at the May special election.
Proposition 1F prohibited the state commission from increasing salaries of the legislature and top government officials if the state general fund is expected to end the year with a deficit. The measure passed overwhelming 74% to 26% at a time when all other measures on the ballot were rejected. (Full disclosure: I signed the ballot argument in favor of the measure.)
California has been running deficits on a constant basis for years despite what the signed budget says on paper. The commission has the right to make this pay cut decision and the attorney general was right to support that decision.