California Republican lawmaker said his party asked for state pay cuts. It didn’t

Laveta Brigham

A Central Valley Republican lawmaker hasn’t asked for the same pay cut California state workers are taking despite saying on social media that a request had been made on his behalf. Assemblyman Devon Mathis of Visalia made the claim after someone identifying herself as a union leader responded to a […]

A Central Valley Republican lawmaker hasn’t asked for the same pay cut California state workers are taking despite saying on social media that a request had been made on his behalf.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis of Visalia made the claim after someone identifying herself as a union leader responded to a Labor Day post on his Facebook page asking if he would “stand in solidarity with laborers” and request the 9.23% reduction that was imposed on state workers in July.

“As you probably already know the Republican Caucus asked for the same reductions,” Mathis replied on Sept. 14.

Mathis repeated the claim in an online candidate forum hosted by the Visalia Chamber of Commerce the following day, after his Democratic opponent, Drew Phelps, said Mathis hadn’t requested a pay cut despite imposing one on workers.

“My entire Republican caucus … the Assembly Republican whip, we asked for our salaries all to be cut, so you’re getting a little fake news there,” Mathis said.

By Sept. 21, the State Controller’s Office, which administers the reductions for state officials, hadn’t received a request from Assembly Republicans, according to the office. The party holds 17 seats in the 80-member chamber.

The Legislature approved the cuts, which are equivalent to what state workers make in two days of work per month, as part of the state’s budget response to economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

In general, workers through agreements negotiated by their unions receive two flexible days off per month in exchange for the reductions. Their retirement health care contributions are also suspended, making the hit to their take-home pay smaller than 9.23%.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who first proposed the pay cuts in May, requested a retroactive reduction to his own pay in August. His request came after The Sacramento Bee reported that he had not taken the pay cut at the same time as state workers, despite saying that he would participate. Newsom’s office said the reduction was delayed due to an administrative oversight.

Justin Turner, Mathis’ chief of staff, said Monday that the assemblyman had been confused. During initial discussions around state worker pay cuts this spring, when straight furloughs without compensatory time off were proposed, members of the Republican caucus were preparing to publish a letter saying they should reduce their own pay before state workers’ pay, Turner said.

As the situation developed and the state shifted to the personal leave program that was used instead of traditional furloughs, the letter was not sent, Turner said.

“He’s still a firm believer that if firefighters are taking a pay cut and all these other things to support the budget, he would support (a pay cut for legislators),” Turner said.

Phelps, Mathis’ Democratic opponent, said Mathis is misleading the public about his record.

“It shows a complete lack of integrity and frankly he should be ashamed of himself,” Phelps said in an emailed statement.

Legislators’ pay is set by the Citizens Compensation Commission, which voters approved in 1990. The language creating the commission gives it “exclusive authority to set the annual salaries, and the medical, dental, insurance, and other similar benefits,” but individual legislators and elected and appointed officers may request reductions.

Just five out of 120 legislators have requested pay cuts for themselves. They are all Democrats: Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; and Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Susan Eggman, D-Stockton; Todd Gloria, D-San Diego; and Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita.

Most California legislators make $114,877 per year. They also receive per diem payments based on the federal rate for travel to Sacramento. For 2020, it’s $206 per day.

The average state worker — excluding the California Highway Patrol, members of the Office of the Inspector General and some judicial officers — made $67,836 in 2019, according to State Controller’s Office data.

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Just one statewide elected official, Controller Betty Yee, had arranged for a pay cut at the same time it kicked in for most of the state’s 230,000 state workers.

Seven top statewide elected officials, including the treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state, requested retroactive reductions in August.

Since then, at least 34 more elected and appointed state officials — not legislators — have requested pay cuts, according to the Controller’s Office. They are listed below.

Lauri Shanahan, Board Member/State Personnel Board

Kimiko Burton, Board Member/State Personnel Board

Shawnda Westly, Board Member/State Personnel Board

Simeona Rogers, Board Member/State Personnel Board

Kathy Baldree, Board Member/State Personnel Board

Genevieve Shiroma, Commissioner/Public Utilities Commission

Martha Aceves, Commissioner/Public Utilities Commission

Liane Randolph, Commissioner/Public Utilities Commission

Clifford Rechtschaffen, Commissioner/Public Utilities Commission

Victoria Hassid, Chair/Agricultural Labor Relation Board

Cinthia Flores, Board Member/Agricultural Labor Relation Board

Michael Villines, Board Member/Central Valley Flood Protection Board

Joseph Countryman, Member/Central Valley Flood Protection Board

Arthur Krantz, Board Member/Public Employment Relations Board

Eric Banks, Board Member/Public Employment Relations Board

Karen Douglas, Member/State energy Resource Conversation and Development Commission

Katherine Dodd, Member/Workers Compensation Appeals Board

Deidra Lowe, Workers Commissioner/Workers Compensation Appeals Board

Katherine Zalewski, Chair Person/Workers Compensation Appeals Board

Judith Freyman, Member/OSHA APPEALS Board

Dean Florez, Board Member/Air Resource Board

Sean Maguire, Member/State Water Resource Control Board

Laurel Firestone, Member/State Water Resource Control Board

Emanuel Esquivel, Chair/State Water Resources Control Board

Dorene D’Adamo, Member/State Water Resources Control Board

Susan Bonilla, Member/Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board

Megan McGuinness, Member/Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board

Sharon-Frances Moore, Member/Cannabis Control Appeals Panel

Antonio Vazquez, Member/Board of Equalization

Malia Cohen, Member/Board of Equalization

Mike Schaefer, Member/Board of Equalization

Patricia Monahan, Chairman/California Energy Commission

David Hochschild, Commissioner/California Energy Commission

Angela Tate, Member/State Fund Board of Directors

Editor’s note: this story was updated Tuesday morning to add information about the Visalia Chamber of Commerce forum and a comment from Phelps.

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