Editor’s note: During 2015 the average pay and benefits for a full time state worker in California was $104,867. County workers averaged $108,856, and city workers averaged $121,430. These averages do NOT include members of public safety. The 2015 average pay and benefits for full time state highway patrol and corrections employees was $136,828, for county sheriffs it was 165,630, and for city police officers it was $161,617. Firefighters averaged even more in 2015 – state fire service employees averaged $145,938 in pay and benefits, city firefighters averaged $196,370, and county firefighters averaged a whopping $198,959. These averages are not skewed by a handful of extremely well compensated executives, by the way. In most of these cases, the medians exceeded the averages. In the few cases where they did not, the difference was only one or two percent. How much is too much? How much can we afford? These averages are understated, by the way, because while employer (i.e., taxpayer) pension contributions in 2015 were nothing short of spectacular, they were not nearly enough to financially permit these pension funds to fulfill the promises they’ve made to these public servants when they retire. As Jon Coupal points out in his aptly titled article that follows, the median per capita income in California is just over $30,000 – several times less than California’s public servants.
Once upon a time we called them “public servants.” Today, most taxpayers struggle to keep a straight face when this term is used to describe the well-paid, elite who govern us.
In a state where the median per capita income is just over $30,000, Gov. Brown, legislators and other state elected officials will celebrate the holidays with a four percent pay raise. The California Citizens Compensation Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, decided the improved economy and healthy state budget justified the raise. California lawmakers, who were already the most generously paid in all 50 states, will now receive $104,115, earning them $14,774 more per year than the next highest. Of course, this does not count the additional $176 per day in “walking around money,” living expenses lawmakers receive for every day the Legislature is in session, amounting to an average of $34,000.
The governor, too, is now the highest paid at $190,100 — Pennsylvania’s governor is actually slated to make $723 more, but Gov. Tom Wolf does not accept the salary.
Do Californians pay their governor, the top executive of a state government responsible to nearly 40 million constituents, enough? The fact that there is never a shortage of candidates for this job is an indication that the pay is sufficient. So, the question arises, why do many government employees receive more than the governor?
At the local level, most cities have as their chief executive, a city manager. Of 479 cities – out a total of 482 – reporting to the state controller, 279 are paid more than the governor. Of these, 24 receive over $300,000 annually.