By Jim Sanders
Published: Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

When their boss wins, legislative aides can win, too.

Thirty-seven staff members received salary hikes, most of them for promotions to jobs with new duties, after they switched houses with an incumbent legislator after last year’s elections, records show.

Annual pay increases for those three dozen aides totaled $315,216 at a time when the state is fighting a $26.6 billion deficit, but Senate and Assembly officials say they remain on track to cut millions from their budgets this year.

Seven of the employees are chiefs of staff – earning from $86,000 to $126,500 annually – while 13 receive salaries below $50,000.

The transfers from the Assembly to the Senate, or vice versa, are on top of nearly 230 legislative aides who did not change houses but also received salary increases recently, most of them tied to promotions. About 90 percent of the Legislature’s work force didn’t see an increase.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said that granting pay hikes to aides who move from one legislative house to another spotlights the “disconnect between our political elite and ordinary people.”

“I think it will come back to bite them,” Coupal said of the possibility of backlash if the Legislature, as expected, asks voters in June to curtail an additional $12 billion in program cuts by extending temporary taxes for five years.

Thirty-four of the 37 affected staffers are moving from the Assembly to the Senate, where districts have about twice as many people, requiring more outreach by legislative offices.

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