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Bass under fire for handing out raises

March 5, 2010 7:21:28 PM PST
The former speaker of the California Assembly is under fire for giving raises to 20 staff members, while the state is reeling from a massive budget shortfall. Karen Bass handed out those raises on her last day as speaker.

Despite a pay freeze, Bass justified the roughly 10 percent pay raises to 20 staffers from the Democratic caucus by pointing out they were promoted and they were given greater responsibilities. The Los Angeles Democrat says she has already cut the Assembly budget by $42 million during her tenure.

In a statement, Bass said: "I specifically eliminated other positions that more than covered the cost of those modest increases."

The pay hikes amount to about $100,000 total a year in taxpayer money. Critics say the move looks bad in an economy where no one is getting raises.

"And for Karen Bass to do this as a kind of parting shot against taxpayers as she's walking out the door away from the speakership is going to cause additional consternation among the people who pay the bills," said Jon Coupal, from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Other Assembly members want to give raises too, but must abide by the freeze.

"My staff works hard and haven't had raises in years either," said Assembly member Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine.

While the raises went to aides who made less than $50,000 a year, some senior staffers made out. Bass bumped up one senior assistant to principal assistant, boosting her pay from $87,456 a year to $96,204.

The pay raises come at a bad time. The state still faces a multi-billion-dollar deficit and state workers continue to be furloughed three days a month, which is essentially a 15 percent pay cut.

State worker Tom Lane thought all public employees were supposed to share in the pain.

"They seem to have their own rules. And I think everyone is tired of them doing the things that they're doing," said Lane.

A year ago, Bass had to cancel raises after getting a lot of public pressure. It's unlikely anything can be done now with a new speaker, John Perez, has taken over.


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