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Raises for legislative staffers condemned by taxpayer activists

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The decision of state lawmakers to provide hundreds of their staffers with raises before cutting the pay for most other state workers drew a rebuke Thursday from taxpayer advocates who said it undermines Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that an $8 billion tax increase is desperately needed.

The state Senate provided merit raises of up to 5% to 559 of its legislative employees in the last 12 months; the Assembly confirmed this week that it gave salary increases to 150 staffers this year.

"It’s an outrage that they did this when the governor is asking voters to approve a tax initiative because he says we can’t pay our bills," said Lew Uhler, head of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee. "This shows an absolute lack of leadership at the top of the state."

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., also said the raises would be a "talking point'' in a campaign against the governor's initiative. "It's not going to sit well with voters come November,'' Coupal said.

Senate leaders said staffers had gone without raises for four years before the latest increases, which cost $1.5 million, went into effect. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Wednesday he is proposing a salary freeze for Senate aides for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Even so, the legislative raises rankled union officials for other state workers who face a pay cut of 4.6% this fiscal year.

"It sends a bad message," said one labor official, who asked not to be named because the union had not authorized a statement on the issue.

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

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, confer during the Assembly session May 31. Their two houses provided hundreds of legislative staffers with pay raises in recent months. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 
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