Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will allow general law cities to adjust council member salaries for inflation for the first time in almost four decades. The measure is one of several sponsored by the League of California Cities this session.
SB 329 (Dodd) will allow city councils to adjust their pay to reflect inflation as measured by the California Consumer Price Index. Any increases would require a majority vote of the city councils.
Government officials, policy experts and activists often cite low compensation as a barrier to elected office.
“My priority is always the same — to make life better for Californians,” Sen. Bill Dodd said. “That’s the goal of my latest bill, which will remove barriers to achieving more equitable representation in local government by making it easier for public servants to balance careers and personal obligations.”
Currently, city councils in general law cities may vote to receive a limited salary, not to exceed caps based on population size provided in state law. They can also increase their salary annually. This limited mechanism does not always allow salaries to stay in line with inflation.
In previous decades, the Legislature updated these numbers for inflation. These amounts have not been adjusted since 1984 despite an over 300% increase in the cost of living.
Lengthy time commitments and limited pay discourage many residents from running for office, especially low-income residents, single parents, people of color, and young people. Some council members have even resigned before their terms expired because they could not devote time to council service and support their families.
SB 329 is an acknowledgment of the important work of local governments, as well as the time and dedication that public service requires. The bill was also supported by the California branch of the NAACP.