Some Valley lawmakers refuse state pay raise

FRESNO, Calif.

Assembly member Jim Patterson didn't want to speak for any of his colleagues in Sacramento but he said the decision not to take a pay raise simply made sense to him.

"I'm a freshman, this is my first term in Sacramento and I'm still learning the ins and outs," Patterson said. "But I think the bottom line is we're adequately paid, we have adequate expenses, we have security, and I think we have to be very careful not to except pay and perks that separate us from the people we represent."

California lawmakers and elected officials will see a 5 percent increase to their paychecks starting Dec. 1. But Patterson and a few other lawmakers are refusing to take the extra money.

The state Citizens Compensation Commission approved the increases in June. The commission is made up of seven people that have been appointed by Governors Brown and Schwarzenegger.

The pay raises will add nearly $5,000 a year for state legislators that don't hold a special position. It will also give Governor Jerry Brown an extra $9,000 a year.

"Many of the people that I serve haven't seen a 5 or 6 percent increase. Many of the people I serve have a hard time making ends meet," Patterson said. "We still have a fragile economy and the state of California still has some large debt, and we have a lot of increased taxes lately, I think we have to be a much better steward of the tax dollar than frittering them away for increases."

California lawmakers have seen a salary cut over the years as the state encountered the recession. The current increase will restore some of the cuts that took place several years ago. Visalia assemblywoman and floor minority leader, Connie Conway, plans to take the raise.

"Voters created the Citizens Compensation Commission – rightfully so – to take salary making out of the hands of lawmakers. The assemblywoman abides with the independent commission's decision," said Sabina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Conway," said Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Conway.

State Senator Andy Vidak of Hanford is taking the raise, but not keeping the money. Vidak has decided to donate his money to four food banks in the four counties in his district.

"Andy lives in a district with a whole lot of people that are unemployed, he's seen a lot of people in food lines, and he just felt it was the right thing to do," said Jann Taber, a spokeswoman for Andy Vidak.

"He could've said no to the pay raise or he could've used to do some good in this district."

Vidak will be making the donations with quarterly payments of $300, beginning in Dec. The food banks are in Fresno, Hanford, Dinuba and Bakersfield.

Fresno Democrat Henry Perea was not available for comment Friday.

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