‘Good quality citizens’

This week the state legislators’ 12-percent pay increase, passed last May 23, kicked into effect giving the states’ newspaper editorial writers a new stage to air their—and presumably their readers'—utter disgust with our lawmakers. The raise brings the elected officials’ annual wages to $110,880, or $9,240 per month, which is nearly three-quarters of what a person on minimum wage makes in an entire year—and that’s working full-time, something the legislators don’t have to do.

What’s more, the state’s senators and assembly members get a $153-per-day expense account on top of their salary when they do show up for work. Their vehicles and the gas to power them are also provided by the taxpayer.

The raise was approved by the California Citizens Compensation Commission, the first such increase since 2000. One of the commissioners rationalized the raise by saying high salaries attract “good quality citizens” to the job. The trouble with that reasoning is that the increase rewards those already in office, who right now are feeling the wrath of the California voter. A Public Policy Institute poll, released in the wake of last month’s special election, shows 76 percent of Californians disapprove of how the Legislature and the governor work together and a majority believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.

Only one senator and 14 assembly members rejected the raise. Others said the job still doesn’t pay enough. Some, like our own Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, said they would pass the raise onto worthy charities in their districts. LaMalfa made that announcement last May, but according to his chief of staff, David Reade, he’s yet to identify who will receive that windfall. “Doug doesn’t want to give to the black hole that is state government,” Reade said, forgetting, apparently, that his boss is part of that government.

We have a suggestion for all the state legislators: Don’t take the raise; donate it back to the taxpayers, instead. That would surely prove what “good quality citizens” you are.