SACRAMENTO, CA - Behind every state lawmaker is a group of staffers who schedule meetings, research issues or write policy.
Despite California's fiscal crisis, the Senate and Assembly gave up to 5 percent pay raises to hundreds of these employees in the last year, including those who already make six-figures.
"We decided based upon four years of freezing and not granting any raises, that we would give modest raises"," said Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "Now, we go back to freezing the pay."
The Assembly had the same reasoning and pointed out it transferred $22 million of its budget to programs that needed the money.
Gov. Brown is asking voters in November to approve a temporary tax hike on higher incomes as well as the sales tax for everyone. Anti-tax groups question the raises: If there's money to bump up salaries, it undermines efforts to ask for more taxes.
"They can't put enough lipstick on this pig to make it look good. At the end of the day, I think voters are going to find this outrageous," said Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
The taxpayers group wonders what good the Senate's pay freeze order is if the raises have already been given out.
"That's tantamount to closing the vault after the bank's already been robbed," Coupal said.
The legislative staff pay raises also come at a time when other state workers' paychecks are starting to reflect a 5 percent pay cut.
"I don't think it's fair. They should take the same cuts as we take," said state worker Charmaine Jackson. "We work just like they do."
Some jobs, like student assistants, are being eliminated.
"The Capitol got 5 percent raises and look at everyone else!?" said student assistant Jessica Nieves.