The total payroll for the employees of the California
Legislature is slightly more than $129.3 million, and the average pay for 2,054 legislative workers is about $63,000 a year, according to legislative data analyzed by
The figures reflect a trend that has accelerated in
recent years: Despite the differences in size between the two houses,
the budgets of the 80-maember Assembly and the 40-member Senate are coming closing together.
The Assembly has a payroll of about $66.8 million, while the Senate payroll is $62.5 million. The Assembly employs some 1,128 people, and the Senate staff is listed at 926 workers, according to figures supplied by the Rules
Committees in each house.
The average pay for an employee in the Senate is about
$67,388 per year. In the Assembly, it is just over $59,198 annually.
The median salary in the Senate, the point at which
half the salaries are higher and the other half are
lower, is $60,720. In the Assembly, the median salary is $51,312.
Capitol salaries have long been a bone of contention,
not only among those who work in the Capitol, but among
members of the public who find the salary levels objectionable
- for whatever reason. For some, such as conservative
and anti-tax groups, the pay is too high. For others, including
many who work in the building, the pay is lower than
they could earn working in the private sector.
A key difference between legislative and private-sector salaries is that the legislative salaries are
in the public domain. The public nature of the pay
often causes tensions in the houses where managers
and staffers know each other's salaries, and people performing the same function
receive widely disparate pay. Chiefs of staff, for
example, typically function as a lawmaker's principal office executive, yet their salaries vary
dramatically, even in cases where they manage similar
numbers of people.
Among the best-paid employees of the Legislature are the consultants
who specialize in specific policy areas and who advise
lawmakers on legislation. They are the Legislature's experts, and their advice often shapes legislation
that has major impacts on California life. The consultants,
especially the veterans, are at the heart of the legislative
policy community, providing institutional memory in
a setting where the elected officials change constantly
because of term limits.
At the center of the Legislature are the workers who
do the logistical chores, the technical work, accounting,
field representation and who maintain the house. Those
include the sergeants at arms in both houses who provide
security to the members - and the public - and enforce legislative rules.
Critics of legislative salary levels note that the
average pay in either house of the Legislature is higher
than the per-capita pay in Marin County, which at $44,962 has the highest per-capita income of any of California's 58 counties and is the highest of any county in the United
States. The per-capita pay in Sacramento County, where the Capitol
is located, is $21,142, or 23rd in the ranking of the state's counties.
In the Senate, the average for individual salaries
-- $67,388 annually -- is higher than the median family incomes for all but
four of California's counties - Ventura ($75,157), Santa Clara ($74,335), Marin ($71,306) and San Mateo ($70,819).
About 775 people earn more than $40,000 annually in the Assembly, while 747 earn $40,000 or more in the Senate.
At the top end of the salary scales, 125 workers in the Assembly earn more than $100,000 a year. Of those, 19 earn more than $150,000. The highest paid Assembly staff member is Nolice
Edwards, chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Karen Bass,
who earns $190,008 annually. Just behind her is Christopher Woods, top
consultant to the Assembkly Democratic Caucus, who
earns $186,756 a year.
In the Senate, the highest-paid employee is Gregory Schmidt, the secretary of
the Senate, at $205,584, followed by Craig Cornett, chief assistant to Senate
Leader Darrell Steinberg, at $183,480.
You can search Capitol Weekly's legislative salary database here.