The California Senate is laying off dozens of employees Friday, saying the staff reductions are necessary to meet next year's payroll.
The Senate is reducing its workforce by 90 positions – 40 through layoffs and 50 through normal attrition. The layoffs are in offices that work for the Senate as a whole, not for any individual members, and do not exist in the Assembly. Additionally, Senate employees will pay an extra $30 each month in health care premiums starting in January.
The layoffs come after the retirements this year of longtime Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt and Human Resources chief Dina Hidalgo.
The layoff proposal by new Senate Secretary Danny Alvarez was approved by new Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
“Today, the Senate made some difficult but fiscally necessary staff reductions affecting a number of steadfast public servants,” De León said in a statement. “These were all agonizing decisions, but they were unavoidable and made in the public interest. This Senate bears an ultimate responsibility to our constituents and to California taxpayers to live within our fiscal means, even when it means doing more with less.”
The laid-off employees are being given severance pay and two months notice.
Update at 5:30pm: Senate officials say today’s actions are due not to fiscal mismanagement but to rising salary and benefit costs that outpaced the Senate’s budget after years of frugality during the recession.
In the 2009-10 fiscal year, the Senate did not take a budget increase. The following year, it cut its operating budget by 10 percent. And in the two years after that, the Senate again held its budget steady.
Last fiscal year, the Senate operating budget rose by 5.8 percent. This year, it’s budget is only increasing by half a percent – far smaller than expected.
The Assembly had the same budget constraints during the recession and also faces a smaller increase this year. But the lower chamber is not planning any layoffs.
The Legislature’s funding formula is set by Proposition 140, which voters approved in 1990. It’s the same ballot measure that created term limits.