Legislators say loss of pay won’t alter budget fight
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/13/2011 08:22:08 PM PDT

State lawmakers could each lose about $400 per day if they don’t pass a budget by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

A ballot measure approved last year prevents lawmakers from collecting their salary and other pay if they don’t pass a budget by the June 15 deadline seat in the state constitution. But local lawmakers – even those without lots of other income – say that’s not a factor in how they’re approaching the budget.

“The main issue here is that we need and must pass a budget by the constitutional deadline,” Norma Torres, D-Chino, said Monday. “My priority is to pass a budget by Wednesday. … And regardless if we get paid or not, we have to remember that we are Californians first and we must rise above party lines and simply do our jobs.”

Torres and most other Assembly members and state Senators representing the Inland Empire make an annual salary of $95,291 – or $261 per day – plus so-called “per diem” payments of $142 for each day they are conducting state business.

They would permanently lose both their salary and per diem payments – a total of $403 for most lawmakers – for every day between June 16 and whenever a budget is approved.

Past budget battles have sometimes lasted into October.

Lawmakers are paid once a month, at the end of the month, meaning Assembly members and senators would feel the pay cut at the end of June if a budget isn’t in place by Wednesday night.

Once a budget is approved, lawmakers won’t get back pay, a spokesman for the California State Controller’s office said.

For instance, if a budget were approved on June 20, lawmakers would be paid for June 1 through June 15 and for June 20 through June 30, but would not be paid for the 16th through the 19th.

Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, said the loss of pay could start affecting lawmakers if the debate drags on.

“I think for the younger members, it’s going to be especially difficult for them,” Cook said, adding that he’s been preparing for a loss of pay.

“I warned my wife,” he said. “We’ve been buying extra cans of tuna fish for the past couple months. I’m willing to endure the consequences.”

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, said the same. Like Torres, he said the budget – not his pay – is the focus.

“It’s just not a consideration at all,” he said. “I came here to do the right thing. Everyone I know feels the same way.”

Taking a stand on the budget and not getting paid will be easier for some lawmakers than for others.

Some local Assembly members and senators have large investment portfolios or income beyond their state salary. Donnelly and Torres aren’t in that group.

According to financial disclosure documents, Torres’ only investment is her family business – a flooring company in Pomona. That business provided her with less than $500 in income last year, she reported.

Donnelly, too, has a single investment: his business, Donnelly Plastic Equipment Inc. He earned between $10,000 and $100,000 as owner of the company last year.

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