by Karl Kurtz
In "California panel looks at cutting pay of elected officials" in the Sacramento Bee last week, an anonymous NCSL spokesperson (my colleague Morgan Cullen) is quoted as saying that no state has reduced legislator pay in recent times. How quickly we are proven wrong! Yesterday's news from Florida reports that the budget deal negotiated by the House and Senate and scheduled to be ratified this week contains a five percent reduction in legislators' pay. According to the St. Petersburg Times,
The 5 percent self-imposed pay cut for lawmakers is a symbolic gesture, intended as a sign that legislators, who make about $31,000 annually, are willing to share the pain of the worst budget year in decades.
The California story is based on two members of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which has the responsibility to set pay for state elected officials, arguing that California legislators' salaries should be reduced for poor performance in managing the state's projected $10 billion deficit. A followup story today debates whether or not the commission has the power to reduce salaries. Proponents of the idea say that the commission's constitutional responsibility to "adjust" salaries means that they can move them up or down.
But Prof. Tim Hodson of California State University Sacramento, who had a hand in writing the 1990 constitutional amendment that created the commission when he worked in the Legislature, says,
It was never the intent of the Legislature or the people … to allow seven gubernatorial appointees the power to punish the Legislature because it is not doing what they would like them to do.
Thomas Dominguez, a commissioner who opposes reductions, adds, ""We didn't pick the legislators. It's not our job to evaluate their performance. That's the job of each voter."