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Lawmakers switch schedule for extra pay
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers have again adjusted their legislative calendar to accommodate a holiday weekend, allowing them to continue collecting their $142-a-day per diem payments while they are away from the capital during the break.

Both houses of the Legislature moved their regular Thursday sessions to Friday this week. Per diem payments continue as long as the Legislature does not take a break of more than three days.

The total cost to taxpayers over the four days of the Memorial Day weekend, starting Friday, is $65,000.

Switching the day of the legislative session ahead of a holiday weekend is a long-standing tradition, but it has drawn scrutiny as California continues to face large budget shortfalls that have forced billions of dollars in spending cuts.

The per diems add about $30,000 a year to lawmakers' $95,290 annual salaries. The Associated Press examined the legislative scheduling switch in February, when lawmakers did the same thing ahead of the Presidents Day weekend.

All but six of the Legislature's 120 lawmakers take the per diems, which are tax-free and are meant to cover the daily expenses of lawmakers who must travel to Sacramento from out of the area.

The latest move comes a week before the independent California Citizens Compensation Committee, which sets lawmakers' salaries, is poised to consider cutting the salaries of lawmakers and statewide elected officials by 5 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget proposal also calls for a 5 percent pay cut for state workers by switching thousands of employees to four-day-a-week schedules.

California lawmakers already are the nation's highest paid and receive separate reimbursements for travel and mileage.

A spokesman for the Assembly speaker's office said legislative committees met Thursday and that the Assembly will "have a jam-packed Friday."

"As you know, we actually have a very busy calendar tomorrow," spokesman John Vigna said.

Numerous Senate committees also met Thursday, including the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was working through 170 bills.

Both houses have until June 1 to pass policy bills out of their original house. At the same time, budget committees are examining Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget proposal, said Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for the Senate president pro tem's office.