“California is struggling to give raises to state workers who were supposed to get them last year even as a new contract year begins,” reports Wes Venteicher of the Sacramento Bee. The delay involves 1,000 members of Professional Engineers in California Government, California Correctional Peace Officers, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Government union members and taxpayers alike might note a recent surge in pay raises at the top.
For example, Gov. Gavin Newsom will soon be paid $209,747, up from his current $201,680, the Sacramento Bee reports. Starting December 2, the top Democrat and Republican legislators will also get a 4 percent boost to $132,107, while the pay of “rank and file lawmakers” will rise to $114,877.
Also bagging raises of 4 percent are the lieutenant governor, attorney general, controller, treasurer, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and members of the state board of equalization. The hike of 4 percent is not due to any performance measure this elite group might have met or surpassed. The raises come courtesy of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which cited a “strong economy and a healthy state budget.”
Established by Proposition 112 in 1990, “the Commission has seven members, appointed by the Governor for six-year terms.” The CCCC website lists only four members and according to the Bee, they voted 4-0 for the legislative and executive pay hikes. That seems to be a Commission trend in recent years.
In 2018 and 2017 the Commission gave elected officials a raise of 3 percent. In 2016 it was 4 percent and in 2015 3 percent. In 2014, elected officials got a raise but the CCCC site doesn’t say how much. In 2013 and 2012, elected officials bagged a raise of 5 percent, and in 2011 the commission kicked in “a $300 per month car allowance for legislators.” The last reduction, 18 percent, came in 2009, and since then the governor’s appointed Commission has kept the raises rising. The money all comes from taxpayers, who might keep a couple of things in mind.
The “healthy budget” that allegedly justifies the pay raises ignores California’s unfunded pension liability of $1.5 trillion. And detachment of the raise from any performance measure is also true for government employee unions.
In 2015, the state’s Legislative Analyst noted that Caltrans employed 3,500 engineers who did little more than sit at their desks. The Analyst wanted to cut those positions, which provoked union boss Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. Blanning told reporters the Legislative Analyst was “childish,” that idle staff should be kept on in case of future projects, and that outsourcing work to independent contractors “wastes taxpayer money.”
Also in 2015, the state gave Professional Engineers in California Government a raise of 7 percent, lasting until June 30, 2018. And as the state auditor noted, for 19 months, one Caltrans engineer played dozens of rounds of golf during work hours, with Caltrans bosses duly approving his time sheets.
Meanwhile, in 2013, the year elected officials got a raise of 5 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown offered the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) a 4.5 percent raise, a guarantee of no furloughs, and protection of health care and retirement benefits. So the SEIU had good reason to demonstrate at the state capitol proclaiming, “this is our house!”
If taxpayers wonder what they are getting for their money, from the top on down, it would be hard to blame them.