In a state with billions of dollars in debt and concerns over high state employee pay in fashion all across the nation, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, might be optimistic about passing a bill that would freeze staff pay for any state employee making more than $150,000.
However, during the same stretch of budget deficits dating back to 2008, Portantino has pushed for and reintroduced the same bill so many times that his staff can't recall off the top of their heads exactly how many times it has been, according to Wendy Gordon, Portantino's spokesman.
Portantino's press release says it has been introduced seven times, and specifically singles out the California State University system as having too many high-paid employees.
"“It is unacceptable to be making it harder for our talented students to enter the CSU system while top administrators at those same institutions seek raises. This legislation was important when I first introduced it, and is even more critical now," Portantino wrote in the release.
CSU officials continue to argue, as they have when opposing the prior bills, that the high salaries are necessary to keep talented administrators at the school system.
"The challenge for us [with this bill] would be for us to attract and retain talent," said Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesman.
He added that the CSU system tends to pay less than similar institutions in other states.
If the bill, AB 7, were to pass, state employee pay would be frozen starting in 2014, and there would be a 24-month freeze on employee bonuses. Exceptions could be made for public safety officials.
AB 7 would save millions of dollars, which would be a drop in the bucket for a state facing a $14 billion budget shortfall. Still, Portantino believes it is important for those at the top to take their share of the budget cuts.
"Freezing the salaries of the highest paid employees is necessary as we look for opportunities to share the burden," wrote Portantino.
The bill also requests that University of California system officials voluntarily follow the new law, though because the UCs have an independent governance system, the law would not be binding for them.
The bill has already passed through a committee vote, as it has in the past, and will now be taken up by the appropriations committee, where it has died in past years.