California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) is unhappy with pay cuts handed down to state legislators last year and is doing something about it. He’s just filed a claim with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, saying that an 18% reduction on salary and benefits for lawmakers was illegal.
Cedillo is best known in Sacramento for trying to get nine bills passed since 1998 which would allow illegal aliens to obtain drivers licenses in California. Cedillo was recently elected to the state assembly, after terming out as a member of the state senate.
The claim is an initial step in what could possibly become a lawsuit if the state refuses to reinstate the wage cuts, and remove limitations on future wage increases. Cedillo thinks that the independent Citizens Compensation Commission lacks authority to make compensation decisions that affect state lawmakers. An earlier legal attempt to roll back the pay cuts was knocked down by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.
Cedillo’s filing takes the position that the taxpayers are not able to set compensation for lawmakers, but that lawmakers themselves only have that authority, suggesting that the lawmakers are responsible to no one besides themselves. According to the claim, the commission “had no authority to reduce per diem, automobile and other allowances for members of the Legislature because that authority is vested either in the Legislature itself or in other agencies.”
To their credit, some lawmakers are willing to share the pain with other state employees who have seen their pay reduced, and others around the country that are out of work, or have taken pay cuts. Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Louis Obispo) said that “if we’re going to earn back the respect of the public, we need to respect the decision of the Citizens Compensation Commission whether we agree with it or not.”
If all lawmakers were reimbursed for the salary cuts since December 2009, the bill to taxpayers would be more than $2.5 million. Although the amount is small compared to the overall state budget, taxpayers are angry at Sacramento for perennial fiscal mismanagement that has resulted in massive annual budget deficits in the tens of billions of dollars. In each of the next several years, the state is projecting budget deficits in the neighborhood of $20 billion, by far, the largest in the nation.