Calif. lawmakers give 1,000 raises amid state's budget slashes

Calif. lawmakers give 1,000 raises amid state's budget slashes
The room of the California State Assembly is seen in a photo used under Creative Commons license from David Monniaux)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers have handed out raises to more than 1,000 employees of the state Legislature in the last year, even as they made deep budget cuts and cut pay for other state workers. The news comes as Democrats promote a November ballot initiative seeking to temporarily raise income and sales taxes to help ease California's ongoing budget woes.

Newly released documents show that officials in the state Assembly and Senate approved raises as high as 10 percent for some top-level staffers. More than 110 of the 1,090 raises given out in the last fiscal year went to legislative employees who were making six-figure salaries, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the raises.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he would seek to freeze pay increases in the Senate for the coming year, but the Assembly has not made any such move.

A spokesman for Steinberg, Rhys Williams, said the merit increases came after several years of pay freezes and reductions in operating expenses in the Legislature. He said the cost of living has risen much faster than legislative pay over the last five years.

He said it is wrong for opponents of Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax initiative to link the salaries to Democrats.

"The Republican members have given their staff raises as well. They are nonpartisan staff ... They all fall in the same category which is having seen their pay overtaken by inflation," Williams said Friday.

He said all the raises were merit increases based upon performance reviews.

A spokesman for Perez did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Among those who saw pay increases, Christopher Woods, chief budget consultant for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, was the highest paid employee to receive a raise, of 3.6 percent, which puts his annual pay at $193,476.

In the Senate, Kathryn Dresslar, chief assistant to Steinberg, received a 10 percent salary increase, to $183,480.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times