December 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm #118497
Hill staff pay frozen in time
By: Erika Lovley
December 21, 2010 02:12 PM EST
Speaker-elect John Boehner has vowed to tighten the budgets of congressional offices, but a new report from the Sunlight Foundation shows that the average staffer’s salary hasn’t changed in 20 years and the number of employees on the Hill has dropped dramatically in the past 30 years.
Even after adjusting for inflation, a staffer in 2009 made within a few thousand dollars of a 1990s counterpart, a review of congressional pay documents and data reports showed.
Some staffers did see an increase in pay: the average chief of staff makes $30,000 more; the legislative director’s salary increased by $17,000 and schedulers earn $9,000 more.
According to the report, even the most highly paid congressional staffers earn significantly less than they would as Washington lobbyists. The average House chief of staff would earn 40 percent more in the private sector. A legislative director can make almost 67 percent more. A senior legislative assistant can make almost 55 percent more. Legislative assistants can earn 39 percent more.
There also has been a 13 percent decline in House personal office, committee and leadership staffers working on the Hill in the past 30 years, the study shows. Much of the reduction took place when the GOP took control of the House in 1994.
Over the past three decades, House committee staff shrank the most, dropping 37 percent by 2005. House office staffers dropped by 9.6 percent. The total number of staffers based in Washington also has dropped from nearly 75 percent in 1976 to about 50 percent currently because more staff are based in the district offices.
“This 30-year tectonic shift likely diminished the House’s policymaking capabilities,” the Sunlight Foundation wrote in the report.
Sunlight Foundation policy counsel Daniel Schuman warned that further cuts to Hill budgets could prevent staffers from getting raises and could result in a steady bleed to K Street.
“Republicans have retaken the House with significant legislative and oversight agenda. But staff levels are already at a low level and cutting it further will not allow them to do what they want to do,” Schuman said. “For most of these folks, they’re not going to get pay raises, their lives will get more difficult and they may leave sooner rather than later.”
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