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November 26, 2006

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Art Pedroza

Slow news day Quang. Did you hear that there is a new eminent domain measure in the works? I found an article to that effect in a Whittier newspaper. My post is at http://o-juice.blogspot.com/2006/11/new-eminent-domain-reform-measure-in.html.

Elroy El

You missed another one Quang.

Two of our very own state legislators accepted the pay raises they originally turned down.

Spitzer and Walters are RINOS!

Spurned pay hike quietly pocketed
Seven lawmakers who initially refused raise later took it.
By Jim Sanders - Bee Capitol Bureau

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1


Seven of the 19 California lawmakers who rejected a nearly $12,000 pay increase last year quietly changed their mind after the spotlight shifted, state records show.

Termed-out Assemblyman Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, had his salary boosted from $99,000 to $110,880 less than three weeks after losing the June 6 congressional primary to Rep. Bob Filner.

Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, sought the higher pay shortly after surviving a contentious Democratic primary against fellow Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr., D-Rialto, for an open Senate seat. She ran unopposed in the general election.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre began receiving the sweeter salary Nov. 9, two days after the Democrat won re-election to his South Gate seat.

Others who turned down the 12 percent raise but later requested it were Assembly members Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel; Todd Spitzer, R-Orange; George Plescia, R-La Jolla; and Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View.

Ted Costa, executive director of People's Advocate, a political watchdog group that launched the recall drive against former Gov. Gray Davis, said he's not surprised that politicians would try to score points with voters by rejecting a pay increase -- then rescinding their request months later.

"It's par for the course," Costa said. "It makes people skeptical, and it hurts (legislators) when it comes to trust."

But Tim Hodson, executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, said legislators deserve their salary of $110,880 per year -- rising by 2 percent next month -- in a state with 36 million people, an incredibly complex economy and "work hours that even a junior member of a law firm would not find acceptable," he said.

"It's certainly a demanding job, and we shouldn't treat legislators like somebody flipping burgers at McDonald's who doesn't expect to stay on the job more than a few weeks," he said.

An eighth legislator, termed-out Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, had her paycheck hiked four weeks after losing the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. But Speier's restoration stemmed from a voluntary 5 percent pay cut, not last year's $11,880 pay hike, which she accepted, records show.

Speier's move could sweeten her future pension benefits by about $275 per month, according to the formula used by the state's Legislators' Retirement System. California provides legislative pensions only for lawmakers, including Speier, who held office before term limits took effect in 1990.

Hodson said he doesn't fault Speier, either, for seeking her full salary in qualifying for a state pension.

"How many people would say, 'No, I'll retire at a lower salary than I am legally entitled to?' " Hodson asked.

Speier honored her voluntary pay cut for more than three years before rescinding it.

Many state bureaucrats earn far more than legislators: More than 3,700 full-time state employees earned more than $110,880 as of March 2006.

Salaries of legislators and statewide elected officials are set by an independent commission whose members are appointed by the governor.

The 2005 pay hike of nearly $12,000 for legislators took effect last Dec. 1, marking the first boost in seven years.

The salary increase came while the state was fighting a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, the Legislature's approval rating was plummeting and an election year loomed.

All 19 legislators who initially turned down the pay hike were running for re-election or for other state offices this year.

Lawmakers were not entitled to retroactive pay after opting for a smaller salary, said Russell Lopez, spokesman for state Controller Steve Westly.

Twenty Assembly and 19 Senate members were not on this year's ballot -- and all quickly accepted the $1,000-a-month raise.

Lieber rejected the pay increase for 11 months before embracing it six days before her Nov. 7 election to a third term.

Lieber said she accepted the pay hike to appease her husband, who felt it was warranted, given the late hours and weekends she works.

"To preserve the peace of the household, I decided to take that (raise)," Lieber said, adding that the decision was made easier by this year's reduction in the state budget deficit.

Negrete McLeod said that neither politics nor Baca's challenge in the June primary affected her decision on higher pay.

She said she accepted the raise only after the state's financial outlook brightened and a new state budget was signed June 30. Her pay was restored one day later, records show.

Voters have not objected, she said.

"In my district, nobody has ever said to me, 'You make too much money,' or 'You don't make enough money,' or 'You did something because of money,' " Negrete McLeod said.

De La Torre and Spitzer said they initially turned down the raise because it came in midterm. They felt obligated to serve under the pay scale in effect when voters elected them to office, they said.

"My reasoning was quite simple," De La Torre said. "It's a two-year job and you get paid a certain salary for those two years."

De La Torre restored his pay after the Nov. 7 general election, at which he received only token opposition, and Spitzer accepted full salary after the June 6 primary, in which he ran unopposed.

"I made it very clear when I refused (the raise) that I would accept it if I became the Republican nominee," Spitzer said. "I made it very clear what I was going to do. I made a promise and I kept it."

Plescia had his salary increased April 17 and Walters on June 29, records show. Neither returned a call seeking comment.

Sacramento-area Assemblymen Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, and Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi, were among 12 legislators who balked at the 2005 pay increase and still receive the lower $99,000 salary.

Niello, like De La Torre and Spitzer, said he objected to a mid-term pay hike. He plans to accept the higher pay scale approved by the independent commission now that he has been re-elected, he said.

Nakanishi said he will continue to work at the reduced rate.

"We still have a budget deficit; we still have a health insurance crisis," he said. "My mantra is that government should be more efficient. It would be very difficult for me to accept the money."

Rejection of the 2005 pay increase will become moot Dec. 4. Legislative salaries automatically will rise to $113,097, a 2 percent jump, unless a lawmaker asks to be exempted.

Thus far, only one of the 120 legislators has notified the state that she won't accept the new pay hike: Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, a Hanford Democrat who narrowly won re-election after one of the state's most contentious Assembly races.

Nakanishi said that he, too, plans to reject the salary increase.

RAISING ISSUES

The following is a list of legislators who rejected the 12 percent pay hike, totaling $11,880, that took effect in December 2005. Legislators who later accepted the raise are in bold, with the date of the raise in parenthesis:

SENATE

• Jeff Denham, R-Merced

• Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria

ASSEMBLY

• Juan Arambula, D-Fresno

• Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park

• Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto

• Lynn Daucher, R-Brea

• Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate (Nov. 9)

• Shirley Horton, R-San Diego

• Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View (Nov. 1)

• Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield

• Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino (July 1)

• Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi

• Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks

• George Plescia, R-La Jolla (April 17)

• Keith Richman, R-Northridge

• Todd Spitzer, R-Orange (June 26)

• Juan Vargas, D-San Diego (June 21)

• Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel (June 29)

• Mark Wyland, R-Del Mar

Notes: Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, donated his pay increase to an education fund; Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, restored a voluntary 5 percent pay cut on July 1. She initiated the cut in February 2003.

Source: State controller's office

OCNative

Why Mimi?! Why Todd?!

Art Pedroza

Looks like we need to go with Sidhu, not Mimi...

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