A tussle over pay cuts for Senate Republican staff members has caused an early rift in a legislative session where harmony was the goal.
Moving from the majority to the minority has cost Republicans more than half of their staff. And most of the 39 remaining staffers are seeing their pay chopped by as much as 40 percent.
Republicans howled over the cuts Thursday, decrying them as "mean-spirited" and "shameful." They failed in an attempt to keep employee salaries from dropping more than 10 percent.
But Democratic Majority Leader Tom Bakk argues some GOP staff members were hired near the top end of the pay scale two years ago and are falling back into jobs with fewer responsibilities.
The Senate has about 200 employees, many of whom fill nonpartisan roles.
Bakk says cuts are necessary because the Senate faces an internal budget pressures and unknown costs related to a former employee's lawsuit over a sex scandal.