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Dems say they'll cut Portantino's budget

Assemblyman says the move is retaliation for his budget vote.

July 13, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. (File photo)
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. (File photo)

The only Democratic state Assembly member to oppose his party’s budget plan last month says that Democratic leaders have threatened to lay off his entire staff in retaliation for that vote.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) received notice Friday from Assembly Rules Committee Chair Nancy Skinner (D – Berkeley) that he must trim $67,179 from his office budget by July 15.

If Portantino fails to do so, Assembly leaders will impose sanctions that include forcing his Sacramento and Pasadena district office staffs to take unpaid leave from Oct. 21 to Nov. 30, according to a copy of that letter provided by the assemblyman.

“This bizarre and unprecedented action is clearly intended to punish me for my vote and to discourage other Assembly members from performing their duties in a conscientious manner,” said Portantino, who plans to run for Congress next year after he terms out of the Assembly.

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Skinner’s office did not return calls, but Skinner’s letter states that Portantino’s spending in the first half of this year’s legislative session puts him on track to greatly exceed his budget allowance during the second half of the year.

“It’s an accounting gimmick to force party discipline — your budget is no longer approved, therefore you are over budget,” said Portantino, who argues his allowance is being scaled back to create the appearance of an overage.

According to documents provided by Portantino, the assemblyman’s total annual allowance in 2010 was $694,375, of which $657,591 was spent. That left Portantino more than $36,000 under his budget. For this year, his total annual allowance is now listed as $518,000, an amount he is projected to exceed.

“All spending is controlled by the committee, not me. I don’t have the ability to hire or appropriate. They control how it all gets allocated with no oversight, no open process. It’s like [the mismanaged cities of] Bell and Vernon,” said Portantino.

Portantino said he has stuck to roughly the same budget for each of the past five years.

The budgets of Assembly members are administered by the Rules Committee under the direction of Speaker John Pérez (D – Los Angeles), with whom Portantino has clashed numerous times.

Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Pérez, said that Portantino has been warned many times to rein in spending.

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