AP: Schwarzenegger's Staff Better Paid

Even as he calls for shared sacrifice to solve the state's financial crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) is spending more than his predecessor on salaries for his official staff, an Associated Press investigation found.

Schwarzenegger has slightly fewer employees than Gov. Gray Davis (search) did toward the end of his term, but is spending nearly 8 percent more on salaries. He is also paying more six-figure incomes within his inner circle than Davis did.

"For a governor who came to office saying he would cut the government, he seems to have really pumped it up, at least salaries for his inner circle," said Jamie Court, a consumer activist with the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (search). "It doesn't show much respect for taxpayers."

The AP obtained the governor's office payroll records through a California Public Records Act request to the state Controller's Office.

Schwarzenegger's office points out that his staff is smaller than Davis' and that the Hollywood multimillionaire has refused to accept the governor's $175,000 salary for himself, instead returning it to the budget.

"The governor is proud of his staff and thinks they are part of what has turned this state around," spokeswoman Margita Thompson said.

Thompson also said that the governor's office is "traditionally exempt" from the hiring freeze Schwarzenegger imposed on state agencies last year, and that the governor will be adding more staff.

Schwarzenegger ousted Davis in a recall Oct. 7 after the voters blamed the state's record budget deficit in part on runaway spending under Davis.

Since then, Schwarzenegger has engineered a record round of borrowing to help close a $17 billion budget gap. He has cut spending for higher education and other services and said he wants to save more money by reopening contracts with some unions.

Discussing budget negotiations last week, Schwarzenegger said, "Everyone has to make sacrifices."

According to the payroll records, the average annual salary for employees in the governor's office has risen 22 percent since Sept. 30, just a week before the recall. It rose from $48,861 in September to $59,585 as of May 28, seven months after Schwarzenegger was sworn in.

Schwarzenegger also has 14 employees on the official governor's payroll making $100,000 or more a year, up from eight on Davis' staff as of Sept. 30.

The number of full-time employees on his official payroll — 61 — actually is lower than the 69 full-time employees on Davis' roster on Sept. 30.

Nevertheless, the governor's office payroll has grown from $3.37 million annually at the end of Davis' tenure to $3.63 million as of last month, a 7.7 percent increase.

Many members of Schwarzenegger's staff are making higher salaries than their counterparts in the Davis administration. Also, Schwarzenegger gave raises to seven Davis veterans who were picked up by his staff during the transition.

Schwarzenegger's office noted that he is requesting the same funding, $6.1 million, in the coming fiscal year that the governor's office had this year. (In addition to salaries, that budget covers equipment, benefits, travel and other costs.)

However, the AP obtained payroll documents for both governors' staffs that show spending on employee salaries is far higher than the official budgets indicate because dozens of employees are paid from the budgets of other state departments.

California governors have long obscured the precise number of people working for them by attaching various staffers to different state agencies.

According to documents released by Schwarzenegger's office under a separate California Public Records Act request, there actually are 154 people working for him. Unofficial figures for the end of Davis' term range from 164 to 194 employees.