Behind every state lawmaker is a group of staffers who schedule meetings, research issues or write policy. Despite California's fiscal crisis, the Senate and Assembly gave up to five percent pay raises to hundreds of those employees in the last year including those who already make six-figures.
"We decided based upon four years of freezing and not granting any raises that we would give modest raises," Senate President Darrell Steinberg said. "Now, we go back to freezing the pay."
The Assembly had the same reasoning and pointed out it transferred $22 million of its budget to programs that needed the money.
Governor Jerry Brown is asking voters in November to approve a temporary tax hike on higher incomes as well as the sales tax for everyone.
Anti-tax groups are questioning the raises. Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says that if there's money to bump up the salaries, it undermines efforts to ask for more taxes, "They can't put enough lipstick on this pig to make it look good. At the end of the day, I think voters are going to find this outrageous."
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association also wonders what good the Senate's pay freeze order is if the raises have already been given out, "That's tantamount to closing the vault after the bank's already been robbed," Coupal said.
The legislative staff pay raises also come at a time when other state workers' paychecks are starting to reflect a five percent pay cut.
"I don't think it's fair," state worker Charmaine Jackson said. "They should take the same cuts as we take. We work just like they do."
Meanwhile some jobs, like student assistants, are being eliminated, "The Capital got five percent raises and look at everyone else!" student assistant Jessica Nieves said.
According to a Sacramento Bee analysis, about 100 legislative staffers making six figures got raises, so now more than 300 people working under the Capital dome make 100,000 a year or more.