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Assemblyman Gil Cedillo's challenge of a 2009 pay cut totaling millions in pay and benefits for legislators and other California elected officials was rejected today by a state agency.

The Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board sustained a staff recommendation in turning thumbs down. The action was taken without comment as part of the consent agenda.

Cedillo said that he expected his claim to be rejected by the state and that he plans to pursue his fight by suing.

The Los Angeles Democrat contends that the California Citizens Compensation Commission exceeded its authority by reducing pay and benefits by 18 percent, a cut that went into effect in December 2009.

Specifically, Cedillo's claim argues that the panel has no control over per diem and car allowances; that cutting officials' pay mid-term is unconstitutional; and that it did not give adequate consideration to time spent on the job and to pay for similar positions in the public and private sectors.

Cedillo also contends that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the possibility of a pay cut - the commission consists entirely of gubernatorial appointees - as leverage in an attempt to extract budget concessions from legislators. Schwarzenegger, through an aide, has denied Cedillo's accusation.

Cedillo, who is seeking back pay for elected officials affected by the 2009 pay cut, said last week that his challenge is a matter of principle because state commissions must abide by the law. He said his challenge would benefit colleagues but that he is not acting at their behest or in conjunction with them.

Asked who will pay the attorneys fees in a court fight, Cedillo said simply, "We'll figure that out."

Besides California's 120 legislators, Cedillo's claim would affect the state's constitutional officers - ranging from governor to schools superintendent to members of the state Board of Equalization.

The 2009 pay cut sliced legislative salaries from $116,208 to $95,291, and it chopped per diem from $173 to $142 per day. The latter is a stipend given to lawmakers while the Legislature is in session to defray living expenses while they are away from home in Sacramento.

Other state elected officials also saw their pay reduced by 18 percent -- for example, gubernatorial pay fell from $212,179 to $173,987, and Board of Equalization salaries dropped from $159,134 to $130,490.

* Updated at 1 p.m. with reaction from Assemblyman Gil Cedillo.



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