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Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced plans Wednesday for a one-year pay freeze for Senate employees, but the move comes in the wake of a recent pay hike for hundreds of the chamber's aides.

The proposed Senate pay freeze also comes as most state workers are taking a nearly 5 percent pay cut as part of budget cuts designed to save the cash-starved state government billions of dollars.

Steinberg plans to ask the Senate Rules Committee to approve the pay freeze at its next meeting Aug. 1, said Rhys Williams, Steinberg spokesman. The action would take effect immediately. The freeze would not affect pay raises tied to promotions.

Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said that his chamber has no plans to announce a pay freeze, but it will continue to respond to California's budget crisis by trimming and transferring 15 percent of its budget to other state agencies. This year, $22 million will be sent, Waldie said.

The Senate was not alone in awarding merit increases to legislative employees this year. The Assembly has done so, too, with hundreds of employees seeing salary hikes ranging from 3.6 percent to 5 percent. Employees were eligible if they had not received a raise in three years.

The total number of Assembly aides who saw their pay rise in the past year was not immediately available Wednesday.

Steinberg, in a prepared statement, said the Senate is doing its part to keep legislative costs down.

"I'm grateful to Senate employees for their sacrifices while the economy recovers from this hard-hitting global economic downturn," the Sacramento Democrat said.

Steinberg noted that the Senate froze employee pay for four years, from 2007 to 2011, before approving performance-based salary hikes last year.

The pay freeze was announced after the Senate finished a nearly yearlong process of awarding salary hikes, with employees eligible for raises of up to 5 percent following performance reviews in their birthday month, Williams said.

Merit raises totaled about $1.5 million, with 58 percent of Senate employees receiving a salary hike, Williams said. That would mean roughly 560 of the Senate's 964 staff members received a raise.

Though the merit increase itself was capped at 5 percent, some employees received larger percentage hikes because they switched job classifications, recently or in years past, without a pay increase at the time, Williams said.

The Senate has not posted updated employee salary figures on its website since January, making it impossible for the public to determine who has received a pay increase this year.

The newly announced pay freeze is not the Senate's only budget-cutting measure in recent years.

The upper house also instituted a temporary hiring freeze a couple years ago - though it hired numerous employees shortly before it was instituted - and it implemented a one-day-per-month furlough for employees with salaries above $50,000 in 2009-10.



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