Legislative staff pay rises slightly

Total legislative payroll has grown slightly since the beginning of the year, despite calls for cuts and promises from legislative leaders that they would cut expenses.

However, much of this increase could also be attributed to other factors, including legislators filling out staffs since being elected and changes in leadership. The May numbers also do not reflect salary increases on the Assembly side that have since been rescinded.

Between the end of January and the end of April, Assembly payroll grew from $66.8 million annually to $69.6 million; total staff jumped from 1,128 to 1,192. Senate payroll jumped from $62.5 million to $63.1 million. Total Senate staff jumped from 926 to 944.

“Staffing up by the new members at the beginning of the two-year session accounts for the increase in overall numbers, which is expected and routine,” said Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer for the Assembly Rules Committee. The Rules committee in each house oversee payroll.

Something similar happened the last time the Legislature turned over. In 2007, total payroll jumped from $118.6 million at the end of January to $127.1 million at the end of May. Still, the current total annualized payroll of $132.7 represents nearly a five percent jump in two years.

Total Assembly payroll has dropped by $533,664 annually—to $69.1 million—since the May numbers were published. This reflects raises to 136 Assembly employees that were rescinded by Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on April 23. The 5 percent pay increases went to 80 Democrats and 56 Republicans on April 1, but Bass cancelled them after taking public flak in the weeks before the May 19 special election.

On Wednesday, the Assembly also lost another $175,716 in payroll when Matt Reilly left his post as the director ofOffice of Member Services to take a job at KP Public Affairs.

The highest-paid staffer in the Assembly is Bass’s chief of staff, Nolice Edwards, who makes $190,008. She was making $139,920 before Bass became Speaker. Other top earners in the Assembly include a trio of Democratic Caucus consultants, Chris Woods ($186,756), Richard Simpson and Arnold Sowell ($179,196 each). Waldie came in sixth on the list, at $174,924. The highest-earning officer in the entire Legislature remains Waldie’s counterpart, Senate Rules Committee executive officer Greg Schmidt, at $205,584. The next three are a trio of top consultants to Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento: Phillip Cornett ($183,480), Gene Wong ($172,704) and Kathryn Dresslar ($166,800).

Legislative payroll is dictated by Proposition 140. This is the same 1990 initiative that imposed legislative term limits. Currently, 81 staffers in the Senate and another 72 in the Assembly make more than the $116,028 made by a rank-and-file legislator. According to cuts passed by the California Citizens Compensation Commission last month, pay will drop to $95,143 for any legislator elected or re-elected in upcoming elections. An additional 105 Senate staffers and 82 Assembly ones make at least this much.The Commission controls how much legislators make, but not staff. 

The average Assembly salary stands at $58,370, up from $56,703 two years ago. Average Senate salary currently stands at $67,461.

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