Lowest-Paid Legislators Wear Distinction As Badge of Honor

Richard RothOnly in public office could the distinction of lowest paid be worn as a badge of honor.

But Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat, has refused every pay increase since being elected to the state Senate in 2012, making $90,526 per year in base salary.

Most members of the California Legislature make $100,113 per year, with leadership drawing checks for as much as $115,129. In fact, Roth is the only senator currently paid below the going rate, although there are several like-minded members of the Assembly.

Roth spokesperson Shrujal Joseph told CalWatchdog that Roth believes he has an obligation to perform his duties at the pay rate voters agreed to when he was elected.

“If fortunate enough to be re-elected, Senator Roth will accept the pay that is in effect then, whether it be higher or lower,” said Joseph.

Members of the Assembly

Fullerton Republican Young Kim is the lowest paid member of the Assembly, earning $95,291 annually. Like Roth, she’s refused every pay increase since being elected in 2014 — including one that passed right before she was elected but came into effect afterwards.

Six other members of the Assembly refused one pay increase, earning $97,197. Four are Republicans: Catharine Baker of San Ramon, Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, David Hadley of Torrance and Tom Lackey of Palmdale. Two are Democrats: Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova and Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks.

California Citizens Compensation Commission

Pay for legislators, and constitutional officers like governor and attorney general, is determined annually by the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which will meet again on April 27. The CCCC also determines benefits.

The CCCC is a seven-member panel, appointed by the governor, which is supposed to represent different segments of the community and different areas of expertise, including one member with expertise in compensation (like an economist); one representing the general public (like a homemaker/retiree/person of median income); one representing the nonprofit world; one who is an executive at a large CA employer; one who represents small business; and two labor representatives.

According to Tom Dalzell, the CCCC chairman, it’s unclear if another raise will be in order as he hasn’t “begun to think about it,” but noted the sacrifice many legislators make by leaving lucrative careers for public office. And in general, pay is considered one of the biggest lures of top talent.

Dalzell, who is a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 and occupies one of the CCCC’s labor seats, said that in determining whether to increase, freeze or reduce pay, the CCCC considers the state budget, the consumer price index and survey data on local elected officials.

Pay Scale History

California has the highest paid state legislators in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. They are also paid well above the state’s median income of around $61,084.

On the whole, base salary for legislators has increased since 2005. To be more precise, legislators have received six increases, three freezes and two reductions since 2005. To be even more precise, base salary went from $99,000 in 2005 to the $100,113 base salary it is today — after salaries had been frozen between 1999 to 2005.

The two reductions were largely orchestrated by the former chairman Charles Murray, a holdover appointee from the Schwarzenegger administration. Murray stepped down almost a year ago to the day.

The six increases: 2005 – 12 percent increase; 2006 – 2 percent increase; 2007 – 2.75 percent increase; 2013 – 5 percent increase; 2014 – 2 percent increase; 2015 – 3 percent increase.

The two decreases: 2009 – 18 percent reduction; 2012 – 5 percent reduction.

And the three freezes were in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

As readers can probably imagine, the decreases were unpopular in Sacramento. In fact, one former legislator fought a cut — the 18 percent reduction in 2009 that slashed salaries from $116,208 to $95,291 — by appealing to both Brown and the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

Neither appeal was successful.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com