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More than half of Senate staffers received raises in last 12 months

July 18, 2012 |  3:49 pm

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The state Senate has provided raises of up to 5% to 559 of its legislative employees in the last year, even while the state was grappling with a financial crisis that resulted in pay cuts for most state workers starting this year.

Assembly staffers also received raises since December, when roughly a quarter of employees received salary hikes. Most of the previous increases were between 3% and 5%, awarded to staffers who hadn’t received merit raises for at least three years. The Assembly did not immediately provide details of raises given since December.

The Senate's merit raises cost taxpayers $1.5 million and took effect in the fiscal year that just ended July 1, according to Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Williams declined to immediately release a list of staffers getting raises, saying they would be posted on the Senate website in the next 24 hours..

“The numbers need to be viewed in the context of the last five years when salary costs haven’t risen,’’ Williams said. “In fact they are less.’’

The total Senate payroll, including the raises, was $67 million for the last fiscal year, which Williams said is slightly less than it was in 2007.

After The Times asked whether raises were provided, Steinberg issued a statement Wednesday proposing a salary freeze on all Senate employees for the fiscal year that began July 1.

“The Senate, like so many California businesses since 2008, has trimmed its operations and staff has carried the weight of that,’’ Steinberg said in a statement announcing the new freeze. “The Senate has seen hire freezes, pay freezes, cost-of-living freezes, health benefit reductions and furloughed pay cuts.’’

Some 58% of the Senate’s 964 employees received the merit raises, many of them in recent months, Williams said. Merit raises were allowed for other state employees during the same year, but officials could not say how many were provided.

Meanwhile, most state workers will see their pay decrease by 4.6% in the fiscal year that began July 1. Steinberg said he would ask the Senate Rules Committee to approve the salary freeze for Senate employees.

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--Patrick McGreevy and Michael Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) proposed a freeze on pay raises for senate staffers Wednesday after disclosing that more than half of the staff received increases in the just-completed fiscal year. Credit: AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Hector Amezcua

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