The chairman of California's Citizens Compensation Commission has concluded personally that data supports full restoration of cuts made to state elected officials' salaries the past four years - but he hasn't decided whether to vote that way Wednesday.
Rather than push a specific plan, Chairman Tom Dalzell said he simply will ask the seven-member panel whether it wants to restore all, some or none of the pay cuts to officials ranging from governor to insurance commissioner to state legislator.
"I firmly believe the data suggests restoration," Dalzell said. "I don't know what my policy position is - I want to listen to (commissioners) before I decide, in the end, what I think."
The governor's salary has dropped from $212,179 to $165,288 in the past four years. Lawmakers saw their pay fall from $116,208 to $90,526, their benefits reduced, and their lease-car program eliminated during the same period.
California's officeholder salaries tend to be high compared to their counterparts in other states, but they pale in comparison to salaries paid to many city managers, district attorneys, county executive officers and other key local government administrators, the commission's surveys show.
Dalzell contends that the salary-setting panel must consider whether, despite the state's firmer financial footing, hiking state officeholders' pay would be appropriate so soon after the state's massive budget crisis.
Dalzell said he will not seek a vote on restoring the state's program of purchasing lease cars for lawmakers or increasing legislative per diem because he believes the board acted beyond its legal authority in cutting those benefits in 2009.
"I would propose letting the Legislature handle its affairs, which is what I think the statute envisions."
Dalzell said he has no idea how the seven-member panel will vote Wednesday when it meets in Sacramento. Dalzell is the swing vote among four Brown appointees and three appointees of GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Two of Schwarzenegger's appointees, Charles Murray and John Stites, said they do not support increasing elected officials' pay.
"Restoration? There's no such thing as a restoration - it's a raise," Stites said. "There are millions of people out there in the private sector, and even in the public sector, who have suffered through cuts. Nobody's talking to them about restoration."
Stites plans to vote during Wednesday's meeting despite controversy over his residency. He has conceded that his primary residence is in Henderson, Nev., though he also owns a house in Los Angeles County.
Dalzell said he will raise the residency issue Wednesday but let Stites decide for himself whether to leave or to participate in the session. Responded Stites: "My conscience is telling me that I'm staying."
Murray said he has not talked with colleagues on the commission but suspects that a majority will vote for total restoration of officeholder pay cuts.
"I think, if I was to guess, they'll vote along party lines -Brown appointees will vote for total restoration and Schwarzenegger appointees will vote for status quo," Murray said.
Commissioner Scott Somers, a Schwarzenegger appointee, said that he is "keeping his options open."
Brown's appointees, other than Dalzell, could not be reached for comment.
PHOTO: Pay commission members Tom Dalzell, Charles Murray and Wilma Wallace, left to right, deliberate during a meeting in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench