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State pushes executive pay limits for cities

August 19, 2010 10:24:59 PM PDT
Anger over the Bell salary scandal has reached all the way to Sacramento. Lawmakers are working to change state law to stop huge city paychecks in the future. Some people think they should be concentrating on the budget crisis instead.The state budget is due before July 1 every year. Most years lawmakers miss that deadline, then a hot-button issue comes up and suddenly they're working at a much different pace.

State lawmakers showed bipartisan outrage over the excessive pay the city of Bell gave its leaders, including former city manager Robert Rizzo, who made nearly $800,000 per year.

Sacramento is pushing a package of six bills aimed at preventing other cities from offering similar compensation.

"Bell officials violated that trust, abused their privilege and committed an unforgivable offense," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), senate president.

The crackdown on excessive pay includes:

  • Requiring charter cities, like Bell, to be penalized by the state for paying more than allowed for traditional cities
  • Anything above would be slapped with a 50 percent personal income tax
  • Banning automatic raises
  • Limiting severance pay to no more than one year's salary

But some people wonder why lawmakers can't come together the same way on a state budget, which is now almost two months late.

California is on the brink of issuing IOUs again as a new round of furloughs for state workers begins Friday and public schools are starting without knowing how much money they're getting.

Just Wednesday, members of the disabled community blocked a major Capitol street to protest the proposed budget cuts to their services. No budget means they don't know what to plan for.

"They definitely should be working on the budget. No question about it," said Michael Schneider, a public schoolteacher from Fremont. "When people's lives and their whole family situations are at stake, then the budget needs to be worked on."

State leaders point out they can work on multiple issues at the same time.

"I don't think that we should hold out creating these reforms that are essential just because we haven't resolved all the elements of the budget yet," said state Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles).

The Bell pay scandal came to light just a few weeks ago and Perez vows that the pay crackdown proposals will be approved by the end of the month. He couldn't say the same for the state budget.


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