How will voters perceive staff wage increases in November?

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

If Governor Jerry Brown plans on spending the summer and much of the fall pushing the need to approve his $8 billion tax initiative, he may want to get his own state lawmakers caught up on the status of California’s finances.

New reports indicate that state lawmakers gave over half their staffers pay raises over the last 12 months, standing in stark contrast to the Senate’s pledge to implement a one-year pay freeze on Wednesday. The raises also contradict the belt-tightening of other state workers, who not only did not receive pay increases, but actually saw their pay slashed by 5 percent via a once-a-month furlough day.

Needless to say, taxpayer activists are licking their chops, particularly in regard to the perceived hypocrisy of instituting a wage freeze only after providing raises. 

“To announce a pay freeze after all the raises have been given is like closing the vault door after the bank has been robbed,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association told the Sacramento Bee

But Senate leadership contends that the numbers aren’t what they seem: their staffers haven’t had a wage increase for four years. 

“The numbers need to be viewed in the context of the last five years when salary costs haven’t risen,” Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, they are less.”

How voters respond to the pay raises on the surface with regard to California’s dire economic state may be what nudges voters when deciding how to vote on Gov. Brown’s tax initiative. Most will not dig deep enough to learn the salary history of state employees.

In that light, even though merit raises cost taxpayers $1.5 million – just a drop in the bucket when compared to California’s other expenditures, this may end up the straw that breaks the collective back of a frustrated California electorate and leaves the state without a November revenue influx that the current budget is contingent upon. 


Matthew Grant Anson

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