- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown and other California leaders already making six-figure salaries got a raise on Monday for the third year in a row.

A citizen panel granted top elected officials and state lawmakers a 3 percent bump as it continues rolling back pay cuts imposed during the recession.

The Citizen Compensation Commission approved the salary and benefit increases on a 4-0 vote after less than an hour of discussion.

Commission members said the state’s record revenues weren’t behind the increases.

Rather, “salaries were cut so dramatically during the lean years” that elected officials’ pay had to be addressed, said commission member Nancy Miller.

Brown’s pay will go to about $183,000, up from about $177,000.

Rank-and-file California lawmakers - who are already the nation’s best-compensated - will now make salaries of a little more than $100,000. They can reject the raises if they choose.

During the recession, the commission cut lawmaker pay 18 percent and eliminated their state-owned vehicles. Lawmakers are also eligible for a $168 daily cost-of-living allowance, but they don’t get pensions.

Members of the commission say the state’s top elected officials, including the governor and attorney general, might deserve even more generous compensation because their pay lags counterparts in other states or at local levels, such as district attorneys and county supervisors.

The board did not grant bigger raises on Monday because members wanted more information on pay and a debate on the issue with a full commission after vacancies are filled.

“You are talking about significant increase for specific people that will have big ramifications,” said Miller.

The raises take effect in December and come out of operation budgets for government offices, so the moves won’t necessarily mean additional costs for taxpayers.

The commission’s vote followed a 2 percent raise approved last year and a 5 percent increase in 2013.

This year’s raises also include a 10 percent increase in state payments for health and dental benefits for statewide elected officials.

Members of the commission didn’t indicate plans to overhaul compensation for legislators.

The seven-person commission was created by voters in 1990. Members are appointed by governors, and Brown has appointed all four current members.

The commission sets salaries and benefits for state lawmakers and the eight constitutional officers elected statewide, as well as for members of the Board of Equalization, which deals with a wide range of tax issues.

Aides to Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff declined to comment on the pay raises.

Representatives of Democratic legislative leaders and the state’s top financial officers did not return requests for comments.


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