Pay hikes canceled at Calif. Capitol

SACRAMENTO /*Assembly Speaker Karen Bass*/ (D-Los Angeles) and other top lawmakers agreed to cancel the pay hikes on Wednesday.

If voters ever had second thoughts about whether their voice could make a difference, there is no need to think again. It can. In an economy of job cuts and higher taxes, anger Californians caused lawmakers to backtrack on Wednesday afternoon.

Members of the poor and disabled communities went to the Sacramento to protest the deep cuts in state funding to their care and services. The cuts were supposed help balance the state's budget. But news that capitol staffers recently got raises didn't sit well with protesters on Tuesday.

"It makes me very angry. I hate it. And they shouldn't get raises," said Kathy Reed, a recipient of /*Medi-Cal*/.

In the end, all the negative publicity pressured assembly leaders to cancel the raises effective immediately.

"When the people say that despite the cuts and the savings we have achieved, they still don't approve of the timing or the appearance of these increases, then I certainly don't want that to detract from the job we do," said Speaker Bass.

"For me, what happened was a mistake on our part as managers. We need to acknowledge and recognize that in an economy this tough, where California are hurting this bad, seeing something like this on our own staff is not the right thing to do," said /*Assemblyman Mike Villines*/ (R-Minority Leader).

Before taking away the raises, both Democratic and GOP leaders approved $551,000 in raises to 136 staffers, averaging between 5 and 5.5 percent. That affected less than 10 percent of total staff, but 36 employees were already making six-figure salaries.

Speaker Bass and Assemblyman Villines said the aides hadn't gotten raises in years and they felt their hardworking staff deserved it considering the long hours. Still, taxpayer groups say the raises should not have happened in the first place.

"This continues to demonstrate an absolute disconnect between our political elite and the citizens that they're supposed to represent," said Jon Coupal, /*Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association*/.

Assemblyman Villines says he will take a 5-percent cut to show his staff he is willing to share in the pain. The Senate, on the other hand, continues to honor the pay freezes implemented in January.



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