SACRAMENTO (AP) — The state Senate faces a budget shortfall of between $3 million and $4 million this fiscal year, helping explain why it laid off 39 of its roughly 1,000 staff members last month.

Senate officers had previously said that fiscal problems were to blame for the cutbacks.

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The problem comes from slow budget growth during the recession, higher health care costs and having too many employees, Dan Reeves, chief of staff in the Senate president pro tem’s office, told The Sacramento Bee. The constitutional formula that sets the Legislature’s budget provided a smaller than expected increase this year, he said.

This month’s cutbacks mostly affect a research office, a bill analysis unit and a secretarial pool. The laid-off employees are eligible for up to two months of severance pay, and they will not be replaced, Reeves said.

“The Senate protected far too many people than it could afford to pay,” Reeves said. “Over time, you accumulate folks. We felt we could provide services to both our members and our constituents in an effective ay with a smaller workforce.”

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No layoffs are planned in the Assembly.

The Senate’s salary and benefits costs increased nearly $4.4 million between 2012 and 2014. It also approved merit raises costing $1.5 million during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Senate officials hope attrition and a budget increase of at least 3 percent next year will help close the budget deficit. Employees also will begin contributing to their health care coverage, helping to pay for health insurance costs that increased more than $800,000 this year.

Senators also must now get prior approval for any expenses.

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