In State Budget Cross-hairs: Capitol staff pay YES – Lawmakers pay & per diem NO

Working to close a $24 billion dollar deficit, Capitol Weekly now reports that Legislative leaders are considering forced furloughs for more than 2,000 Capitol staffers.  Each furlough day per month would amount to a 4.5 percent pay cut.

Capitol sources said the possibility of furloughs was floated privately among the leadership of both houses. Legislative employees, unlike most Civil Service, state-government workers, are not subject to collective bargaining agreements. Capitol workers could be furloughed through administrative action not requiring legislation.

Yet as Legislative leaders consider furloughs for staff, one item seems to remain off radar – per diem.  The average legislative and executive staff salary is $63,790, yet as one might imagine State legislators annual salary rates slightly higher.  Lawmakers earn $116,098 a year plus $173 in tax free per diem for each day they are in session. This “desk” per diem, as it’s called, is designed to cover the cost of keeping a second home in Sacramento.

The current rate was increased in October from the prior rate of $170.  Even then California’s economy, jobs, revenues and budget were hurting, but that did not stop the state Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board from slightly raising the per diem rate.

The Board is required by state law to set per diem no lower than the rate paid to federal employees traveling to Sacramento, currently $173.  For the state’s 120 Assembly and Senate members, the increased rate adds about $600 per year to their checkbook — maybe more, maybe less, depending upon the duration of a legislative year. For taxpayers, the hike amounts to about $72,000 annually.


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