Legislative staff salaries: where the money goes

What do Californians get for their 119 million tax dollars at work? That’s the payroll for the Legislature’s 2010 employees. Neither number includes the $13.6 million payroll for the state’s 120 legislators.

So where does the money go? First off, they don’t call the Senate the upper house for nothing. Despite having half the members of the Assembly, the Senate has 46 percent of the staff and 48 percent of the payroll.

It also pays to be a Democrat–though not as much as one might think. How big this advantage is depends a great deal on how one parses the numbers.

Overall, Democratic senators average 9.4 staffers and a payroll of $509,147. Their Republican counterparts actually come out slightly ahead: 10.1 staffers on a payroll of $511,762. According to Senate Rules, senators get either eight or 10 staffers, depending on if their districts straddle multiple counties.

However, these numbers don’t account for the 54 caucus and leadership staff for Senate Democrats, with a total payroll of nearly $4.6 million. Twenty-six of these staffers report to Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; this latter group pulls in $2.4 million.

This compares to 48 caucus and leadership staffers on the Republican side, with a payroll of $3.5 million. Overall, 25 Democratic senators control a payroll of $17.3 million, averaging out to $691,223 per senator. Fifteen Republicans hold the strings for $11.1 million in payroll–or $742,882 per member.

But then there are the 202 Senate Committee staffers–who average out as the highest-paid group in the building at $79,935. Sixty-three of these people make more than $100,000 a year, all of them in consultant or director posts. With their greater control of committees, many of these employees came through Democratic staffs. Overall, the Senate Committee payroll is the single biggest piece of the pie, at $16.1 million.

The payroll for the personal staffs of the 48 Democratic Assembly members totals $13.3 million. They average 5.5 staffers on a payroll of $277,508. Their Republican counterparts have a total payroll of $7.9 million, dividing out to 6.1 staffers and $247,407 in payroll per member.

Unlike the Senate, Assembly members get a block grant of $275,000 with which to hire as many or as few staff as they like. The lower payroll number for Republicans appears to be due to several staff positions members are still seeking to fill. Some recent hires–such as Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, appointing former Ray Haynes staffer Anthony Tannehill to be his legislative director last week–have yet to make it into the database.

The Democratic caucus and leadership roles employ another 158 staffers, with a total payroll of $11.8 million. This compares to 80 employees making $5.4 million on the Republican side. Overall, the Assembly Democratic payroll is $25.1 million, or $523,583 per member. The Assembly Republican payroll is $13.4 million, or $417,344 per member.

Then there are the 212 Assembly committee staffers making $13.8 million. As opposed to the Senate, where they officially work for neither party, Assembly committee staffers officially report to the Democratic chairperson of each committee.

The granddaddy of these committees is Appropriations, where Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has a staff of 18 making $1.4 million. This includes two former members of his personal staff, Elizabeth Mooney and Shannan Velayas.

Other Democratic chairs also have people on their committee staffs who used to be listed as members of their personal staffs: Victor Christy and Lorraine Guerin under Joe Coto, D-San Jose, in Insurance; Juan Torres in Rules under Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Gayle Eads and Hans Hemann on Natural Resources under Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Judiciary’s Kelly Kent under Dave Jones, D-Sacramento; Ted Muhlhauser under Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, in Entertainment; Willie Armstrong, Juan Cisneros and Eric Worthen in Education under Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco; Andrea Graham and Jocelyn Martinez-Wade in Transportation under Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; Cynthia Leon in Agriculture with Nicole Parra, D-Hanford; Sam Delson and John Doherty in Governmental Organization under Alberto Torrico, D-Newark; and Lisa Ramer under Lois Wolk, D-Davis, in Water & Parks.

Beyond this are the various support personnel that keep each house running. On the Assembly side this includes 178 people on a payroll of $9.4 million. This includes the 25 members of the clerk’s office ($1 million), and the 43 employees of the Sergeant’s office ($1.9 million).

This number also includes 70 people reporting to the Rules Committee, making $4 million (this does not include Rules consultants). They cover functions such as administration, payroll, facilities, warehouse, travel, telecom, vehicle maintenance–even the six employees of the Capitol television studio.

The Senate support staff includes 234 people making $12.7 million. This number is slightly inflated because the Capitol security staff (51 employees, $1.8 million) reports to the Senate. It also includes 43 Senate Rules Committee staffers making $2.9 million; as with the Assembly, they were including in support staff because they manage the day-to-day operations.

This also includes the Senate Sergeants office (23 people, $1.4 million), office services (20 people, $723,000), the Senate Office of Reprographics (23 people, 1.2 million), and the Office of Special Services (15 employees, $670,000).

Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at

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