Incoming speaker doles out $130,000 in raises

March 16, 2010 5:24:33 PM PDT
The outrage is growing over pay raises handed out by two assembly speakers, at a time when California is firing thousands of teachers because of the budget crisis. The incoming speaker, John Perez, doled out more than $130,000 in annual raises. The outgoing speaker, Karen Bass, gave staffers more than $80,000.

Even though the pain is not over, Sacramento somehow found some money for pay raises - funds critics say could have been used to avoid some budget cuts.

Parents and students sat helplessly by the last few days, watching their teachers get layoff notices. More than 23,000 statewide got them because the state's finances are still in trouble. So imagine the outrage, especially from 2nd grade teacher Allyson Munsey, who received a pink slip, when she and others heard the Assembly handed out more than $200,000 in raises.

"It's disgusting, for one, that people are getting raises as hundreds of thousands of teachers are getting pink slipped," said Munsey.

"It literally makes me sick because I could have at least saved one teacher at our school," said Santa Clara parent Jennifer Whitaker.

As new Speaker of the Assembly John Perez brought along much of his staff, promoted them and gave them raises for the increased responsibilities, new Minority Leader Martin Garrick did too.

The largest pay bumps went to their chiefs-of-staff: Sara Ramirez's new salary is $190,008, a $64,752 increase, and Mike Zimmerman's raise took him to $111,996, which was a $45,216 pay hike.

Steve Maviglio used to be a high-ranking Assembly staffer under two speakers. He says the pay has to be that high when the job is 24/7.

"Not only she the chief-of-staff for the Assembly member, she's the CEO of the Assembly with million dollar budgets and thousands of employees. This kind of job in the private sector would command a salary two to three times that," said former Assembly staffer Steve Maviglio.

Through a spokeswoman, Speaker Perez points out every speaker has given out promotions and pay raises and "?he remains steadfast that the Assembly do its part by cutting its operating budget 15 percent."

Regardless, what makes today different is this recession that has forced lawmakers to slash education and social programs to balance the state budget.

The new raises come less than three weeks after Bass, on her last day as Speaker, doled out promotions and raises of her own, mostly to low level staffers. Government watchdog groups wonder why her senior aides did not take a pay cut when she resigned as speaker.

"Once somebody leaves the speaker's office, their staff should go back down to be comparable to what other staffers are making in other Assembly members offices," said Derek Cressman from California Common Cause.

While at an environmental summit, the Governor would not comment on the Assembly raises, but knows this is a bad time.

"I told my staff no one will be getting an increase for a long time because until the economy comes back, we're not going to allow any increases at all," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Even after the outrage over these raises, there is no word from the Speaker's office whether there will be any changes to those salaries.


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