Speaker Nixes Pay Raises

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Proving once again that in politics, perception often trumps all else, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has canceled pay raises for staffers in the lower house.

The action follows a pretty frenzied 24-hours of news reports focused on $551,000 in pay raises for Assembly staffers representing both Demoocrats and Republicans.

Clearly sensing that the story was getting away from them... especially in light of all of the other big cuts in state services and a ballot measure that would extend tax increases on Californians... Bass and Assembly GOP Leader Mike Villines agreed to day to scrap the salary bumps, which apparently averaged about 5.5%.

"These increases risk becoming a distraction from the work being done in the Assembly and the important budget reforms on the May 19 ballot," she told reporters this afternoon. "And I have decided that I can't let that happen."

Villines echoed the same sentiments in a separate Q&A with reporters, and announced he's decided to cut his own legislative salary by 5%.

The speaker said that she spoke to many of the affected staffers before her news conference, and said they applauded her decision.

But still unclear is whether she was nixing the pay raises because of the perception... or because she now believed they were a mistake.

Bass, who pointed out that the Assembly has cut $38 million from its budget over the last couple years, never quite answered the question when I posed it to her.

"I didn't want it to be used by the people who are against the (budget ballot measures)," she said. That sounded like the problem was one of perception. She then said the issue was "a major concern." And that was that.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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