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On The Money: Big Payday For Welfare Czar

By Mike Luery

Despite massive cutbacks to programs helping the poor, a newly hired government bureaucrat will take home more than a million dollars in salary and benefits over the next three years. The bureaucrat, Will Lightbourne, has been on the job only four days as the state's new Director of Social Services, but already there's plenty of controversy – because he's making more money than the governor.

Times are already tough for Californians on welfare.

"Can't find a job, it's hard, really hard," said a woman outside a Sacramento County welfare office. She identified herself by first name only: Antoinette.

But the state's new welfare czar, Will Lightbourne, is making $216,000 a year in salary.

"I totally think that's unfair," said Tarl DeHaven, a welfare recipient. He told CBS 13, "There's a lot of people in Sacramento, in California that are on the streets that don't have anything to eat at all."

Lightbourne will make $43,000 more than the governor who appointed him – Jerry Brown.

On The Money spoke with Will Lightbourne today and asked him point blank:
"Bottom line, are you really worth more than the governor?

Lightbourne responded, "That's something the governor would have to tell you."

The governor's office defends the new hire, saying Lightbourne has years of experience bringing welfare services down to the local level – he's been social services chief in three California counties. Lightbourne is technically an executive on loan from Santa Clara County – but making $50,000 more than the previous state director of Social Services.

"How can that be justified in this era of limits?" this reported asked Lightbourne.
"I really don't think it's my place to justify it. My job is to focus on the tasks at hand," he told CBS 13.

Capitol Republicans claim the arrangement violates state law.

Brian Jones, a Republican Assemblyman from Santee told CBS 13, "He's being paid $50,000 more than the maximum allowed by state law. The average grant for children in California on welfare is $500 a month. So that's 100 months worth per year of grants that are now not going to be able to go to the children."

Lightbourne will also receive a $400 a month car allowance – at a time when state lawmakers are having their cars taken away.

"I receive a car allowance as part of the county compensation. I don't bill anyone for mileage and the travel is all on me," Lightbourne told CBS 13.

But welfare recipients CBS 13 talked to were surprised to hear Lightbourne's total compensation package, including salary and benefits: $1.2 million over three years.

Antoinette commented, "Well he's taking everything from us. We're poor people; they need to give it back to the poor that's what I think."

Republicans are calling for an investigation of the pay deal and they have filed a public records act request with the governor's office to examine the contract.

The governor's office has ten days to respond.

Send us your On The Money story ideas via e-mail at You can also follow On The Money stories in progress via Twitter at: @mikeluery.

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