SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Against a backdrop of deep fiscal distress, several state lawmakers rewarded their employees with pay hikes during the first half of the year, an Associated Press review of legislative pay records showed.
At least 87 California Assembly staff members received raises
totaling more than $430,000 on an annualized basis, even as the
state faced a growing budget deficit that led to furloughs and pay
cuts for many other government workers and steep reductions in core
The review of records obtained under the state Legislative Open
Records Act found that salary bumps went to three employees in the
office of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, the Los Angeles Democrat who
leads the 80-member chamber, and three to staff members of the
Democratic caucus she oversees.
In the 40-member Senate, nine staffers had a boost in pay,
leading to an annualized increase of $152,000.
Aides to several members of the Assembly and Senate said some of
the increases were not raises in the traditional sense. Rather,
they described the higher pay as extra compensation for employees
who were working more hours.
The Assembly also trimmed about 13 percent from its overall
payroll in the current fiscal year, while the Senate instituted
one-day-a-month furloughs in July for most staffers, spokeswomen
for both houses said.
Even so, the pay increases to dozens of legislative staffers
between January and the end of June came as tens of thousands of
state workers were seeing pay cuts of nearly 10 percent.
In the Assembly, 39 employees received pay increases of 10
percent or more. Of those, 15 saw increases of 20 percent or more.
Seven of the nine Senate staffers who received increases saw their
pay rise by 10 percent or more as they began working more hours,
according to staff.
Five Assembly staffers and two Senate staffers who already made
$100,000 a year or more saw their pay rise.
In the Assembly, 10 increases went to Republican staffers and 12
went to security staff employed by the Assembly Rules Committee.
Most of the rest went to employees of Democratic lawmakers or their
committees, according to the AP review.
The Assembly had 1,206 employees on its payroll as of June, said
Shannon Murphy, a spokeswoman for Bass. Of those, about 7 percent
had received pay increases, the AP review found.
Murphy said the Assembly's annual payroll had decreased by $1.3
million in June from a year earlier, with 15 fewer employees.
The pay of 10 employees also decreased in the Assembly during
the first six months of 2009 by a total annualized amount of
$102,000, either because those workers were putting in fewer hours
or changed jobs within the Legislature.
The Legislative Open Records Act allows the Legislature to be
far more restrictive in its release of information than other state
agencies, which are covered under a separate law, the California
Public Records Act.
Both houses of the Legislature refused the AP's request to make
the payroll records available electronically. Details of their
spending are not listed in the annual budget the governor signs, as
they are for other state agencies and departments, meaning there is
no way to cross-check the information the Legislature provides.
The first six months of the year represents a period in which
lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were grappling with a
deepening budget deficit that eventually forced them to make some
$30 billion in cuts over a two-year period to education, health
care, state parks and other programs.
During that period, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D- San Diego,
awarded a total of $41,000 in annualized pay increases to her
staff, the highest total increase for any member of the
That included 20 percent pay boosts for three of her employees
and a 15 percent increase for her chief of staff, Lucy Krohn,
bringing her annual wage to $110,640.
Joe Kocurek, a spokesman for Saldana, said the lawmaker's
elevation this year to a leadership role and to chairwoman of the
Legislative Women's Caucus made the pay increases necessary. He
said several staff members had not received raises in two years,
while others were promoted to higher positions.