How to find out what your elected officials are being paid

150 150 Courtney M. Fowler

(photo: Darin House/Flickr)

Transparency on all fronts of state government is essential for accountable government. With Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg recently moving to revoke pay and benefits for suspended Legislature members, it was worth asking: Just how much are these guys making anyways?

There are multiple sources, both online and otherwise, for the average citizen to see just how much money is allocated to their elected officials.

One such resource for finding out salary information at the basic level is the California Citizens Compensation Commission (CCCC). Proposition 112, which was voted into effect in June 1990, requires legislators to hold open meetings and disclose salary information. It also calls for elected officials to limit accepting gifts that can conflict with strengthening laws as well as prohibits compensation from lobbying firms.

Following the enactment of Prop 112, the CCCC was established to publish the salaries and benefits of Assembly and State Senate members. There is also information regarding the commission meetings including PDF copies of the agendas and minutes on the site. The CCCC consists of seven members appointed by the governor for six-year terms.

Another place to get salary information on both elected officers as well as their staff is directly through the California State Assembly. Located on the site is state assembly expenditure reports and detailed salary information including member districts, staff hiring dates and detailed monthly/yearly incomes.

Through the publication of this information, you’re also able to contrast salaries between officials. For example, the California State Assembly state lists two non-member administrators who are earning at least $5,000 more than the governor annually.

Also listed on the assembly website are links to listen the assembly’s daily floor sessions and background details about what is being discussed during each meeting and PDF copy of the daily file.

But this information isn’t as easily found as it should be. Some digging was required for this piece, which doesn’t bode well for the average Californian.

One of the best representations of salary and operational transparency has been set by the Los Angeles City Controller’s office, which offers not only has city employee earnings, but offers details about how the salaries amounts are approved vs. the actual earnings of city employees. The Controller’s website has an attached Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that expands on the salaries of city funded employees by listing their earnings by quarter. That information is archived for three years.

In 2013, Controller Ron Galperin also launched the website, Control Panel L.A, which is simplified version of the jargon used to explain how Los Angeles spends its money. Though much of the financial information was previously accessible to users in other locations, it’s beneficial to have it one central location. Control Panel L.A. uses a series of infographics and data sets to share financial reports including revenue from fines and fees and city expenditures dating back to 2011.

It is the right of every Californian to know exactly how much their elected leaders are making. After all, it’s their tax money paying the salaries of public officials. This is an information piece meant to bridge the gap, but hopefully transparency will take center stage not just with a Cal-Access update but with Sacramento following Los Angeles’ lead and making the whole shebang available front and center for every Californian to peruse.


Courtney M. Fowler

All stories by: Courtney M. Fowler