AG Brown's pay slashed amid budget crisis

By Chris Rizo | Dec 7, 2009

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Monday had his pay reduced amid the Golden State's mounting fiscal woes.

Brown and other stateside officeholders had their pay cut by 18 percent and their benefits slashed by 18 percent Monday. The reductions were ordered this year by the independent California Citizens Compensation Commission.

Brown's December paycheck, scheduled for the end of the month, will reflect the AG's new annual rate of $151,127 instead of $184,301.

The change makes the California attorney general the second highest-paid state legal officer. The Alabama AG jumped into the No. 1 spot, paying its attorney general $163,744.

Last month, Brown responded to a legal question by the Legislature's two administrators as to whether the seven-member compensation commission may reduce the salaries of legislators and other elected officials in the middle of their terms amid the state's revenue shortfall, expected to grow to $14.4 billion for fiscal year 2010-2011.

The salary cut, approved 5-1 in May, applies also to the attorney general, state superintendent of public instruction, controller, insurance commissioner, treasurer, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and members of the Board of Equalization.

Under the salary cuts, lawmakers' base salary went from $116,208 to $95,291. The governor's annual pay will go from $212,179 to $173,987, although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not accept his salary. The lieutenant governor's pay drops from $159,134 to $130,490.

The cuts will net the state a total yearly savings of $2.9 million, officials said.

In his legal opinion, Brown noted California voters' 1990 approval of Proposition 112, which requires the commission to "adjust the annual salaries of state officers" each year.

Brown said Proposition 112 contradicts and supersedes a ballot measure adopted in 1972 that prohibited mid-term salary reductions.

"The rules of constitutional interpretation require harmonization of conflicting provisions if possible. If provisions cannot be reconciled, however, the later-adopted provision prevails," Brown wrote. "Because I believe that the two conflicting provisions cannot be reconciled, the later-adopted provision calling for adjustments up or down must prevail."

He added: "The fundamental objective of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the enacting body, which in this case is the voters. I believe that a careful review of the text of Proposition 112 and the accompanying ballot pamphlet makes clear that the voters intended in 1990 to create a new system of setting legislative compensation to include an annual up or down adjustment of salaries and benefits."

Last year, the California Citizens Compensation Commission, whose members are governor's appointees, approved a 5 percent raise for the attorney general and state superintendent of schools and a 2.75 percent raise for state legislators and other state elected officials.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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