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Capitol Shoe Shine Guy Among Senate Layoffs

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A man who has buffed shoes inside the Capitol for more than two decades is among those recently laid off by the state Senate.

Eddie Wright has shined shoes and boots for lawmakers and lobbyists since 1992 and had been on the legislative payroll since 2000, before he became one of nearly 40 Senate staffers laid off last month, The Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

He says his government salary was about $13,000 a year, but the job also gave him medical and retirement benefits. He says he had no such benefits before.

It was former state Sen. Quentin Kopp who pushed for him to be on the state payroll after he stopped for a shoe shine and saw how many visitors to the Capitol were asking Wright questions:.

"He said, 'Man, how many people ask you questions every day?' I said, 'About 100.' And he said, 'You should get paid for that,'" Wright said.

He was put on the legislative payroll soon after for a part-time, minimum-wage job. The justification for doing so was that he provided information to visitors.

"Before that I didn't have no medical, no dental, no retirement," Wright told the Bee. "Just my little $50-a-day shoeshine stand."

After taking over as president pro tem of the Senate, Democrat Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles announced the chamber would be laying off 39 of its roughly 1,000 employees. Staff members responsible for writing bill analyses, within a policy research arm and in an office services unit were among those who lost their jobs.

He cited fiscal constraints as the reason for the job cuts and said they were unavoidable.

Earlier this week, the Bee reported that the Senate faced a budget shortfall projected between $3 million and $4 million. The chief reasons for the deficit were slow budget growth during the recession, higher employee health care costs and having more employees than it could afford on its payroll.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told the Bee that he felt for Wright but also questioned why he would be on the public payroll in the first place.

"It's too bad if somebody of this modest means loses their job," Coupal said. "There is nothing wrong with (the Legislature) making space available for him to run a business, but taxpayer funds for this service? I think most people would question that."

It was not clear whether Wright would continue operating his shoe shine stand as an entirely private enterprise. The stand was empty Friday morning.

The Senate's chief administrator, Danny Alvarez, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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