In a state where unemployment is above 11.5 percent and furloughs and pay cuts are common, California lawmakers doled out pay raises to at least 100 staffers totaling more than half a million dollars.
The Assembly gave out pay hikes to 39 employees that equaled 10 percent or more. Some of those got double that.
In the Senate, seven employees received double digit bumps. Some already made six figure salaries before the pay raise.
Leaders defend the move saying these are not pay raises in a traditional sense. A lot of it is moving part-time people into full-time positions that became vacant.
"Rather than go out and replace that body, we've given new responsibilities to existing members of the staff and accordingly some of those positions have been reclassified," Speaker's Office spokesperson Shannon Murphy said.
Leaders also note their overall operations spending is down and that is what counts.
"Members have taken 5 percent cuts, we've reduced the number of employees and we've reduced the cost of our payroll, I'll stand by that record," Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said.
Taxpayer groups are outraged because everyone else is tightening their belts.
"The Legislature has to be very careful about how it is being perceived by the taxpaying public; and any raises in this economic climate are going to be difficult, if not impossible, to justify," Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said.
Outside the Legislature, overall state payroll is down too by nearly $2 billion, mostly because of three day-per-month furloughs.
But, the number of full-time state workers under Gov. Schwarzenegger's control has actually grown.
In June of last year, nearly 212,000 employees were on the payroll. A year later, more than 216,000 drew a state paycheck. That is more than 4,200 positions, in other words, state government swelled by 2 percent.
Much of the hiring has been in the state prison healthcare system, which was deemed unconstitutional. More staff was needed to bring it into federal compliance.