California Lawmakers Spent $199 Million for Wages, Benefits

California lawmakers spent almost $199 million on pay and benefits for themselves and aides last year, while cutting funds for schools and the poor, state records show.

The 80-member Assembly went through $103.3 million in wages and benefits from Dec. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010, according to information released today by Speaker John Perez, a Los Angeles Democrat. The 40-member Senate spent $95.5 million during that same time, data from that chamber show.

The legislature, run by Democrats, has been under pressure from media and government-watchdog groups such as Common Cause to release its financial records. Until now, only a handful of lawmakers had provided their payroll data, while Perez had resisted. The information released today fell short, according to California Common Cause in Sacramento.

“We are still left with many unanswered questions,” Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for the group, said in a statement. “We have concluded that these documents bare little new information and avoid detailed descriptions of how money is spent in the Legislature. Common Cause will continue to advocate both houses to release detailed spending records which accurately account for how funds are allocated.”

Senators spent more than $2 million on travel, vehicle and per-diem expenses during the report period, while the Assembly spent more than $3 million for such purposes. The senate also spent about $100,000 on meals and $593,700 on postage, the records show.

During the period, lawmakers passed the latest budget in state history after a 100 day impasse with then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, over how to fill a $19 billion budget gap.

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