(Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Sacramento — In one of her last acts as speaker of the state Assembly, Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) quietly doled out 10% pay raises and promotions to 20 of her staff members.
The raises, which Bass approved last week on her final day as speaker, come as California continues to grapple with an estimated $20-billion deficit. More than 200,000 rank-and-file state workers have been forced to take three unpaid furlough days each month, the equivalent of a 14% pay cut, to help balance the state's books.
The highest-paid aide to receive an increase was Pamela Haynes, a principal assistant to the former speaker. Her pay grew from $87,456 to $96,204.
Most of the salary hikes, which totaled slightly more than $80,000, went to legislative employees earning less than $50,000 a year. A dozen of the promoted aides had been earning less than $40,000 per year.
Bass defended the moves, saying in a written statement that the Assembly "specifically eliminated other positions that more than covered the cost of those modest increases." The Assembly has trimmed $42 million from its budget in the past three years, she said.
"We definitely succeeded in tightening our belt," Bass said, adding that she "very frugally tried to measure out moderate pay increases for some Assembly employees who were taking on new responsibilities."
Last April, Bass awarded about $350,000 in merit increases to 80 legislative employees, an average pay raise of about 5%.
Then-Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines of Clovis also gave $201,000 in pay hikes to 56 GOP staffers.
Both lawmakers reversed those raises when they were reported by news media, fearing they would become a distraction in the May 2009 special election in which lawmakers were asking voters to pass budget- related ballot measures.
Five of the measures lost; the only one that won denied lawmakers pay raises when the state runs a deficit.
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