What are They Hiding? Calif. Assembly Won't Reveal Budgets

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

A veil of secrecy hangs over the California Assembly as far as its members' budgets are concerned. Assembly leaders will not reveal those numbers to the public, and one Assemblyman says he knows why -- leaders don't want the public to know they punish disobedient members by slashing their budgets.

According to a report in The Sacramento Bee, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino said leaders from his own party cut his budget after he was the only Democrat to vote against this year's state budget.

Portantino was joined by several media outlets in filing Legislative Open Records Act requests in an effort to see the budgets of every member to see if those budgets had changed based on votes.

On Monday leaders rejected the requests, saying the records are protected by law, writing:

Therefore, records relating to budgets and changes to budgets of the members of the Assembly and Assembly Committees are not subject to mandatory production.

Portantino said he will propose legislation that would "force the books to be opened."

"I'm going to challenge my colleagues," Portantino said. "Do they stand for transparency or behind secrecy?"

The Bee reports that Assembly documents obtained from a "confidential source" show that Portantino was budgeted for $518,000 and was projected to spend $585,179 this year.

Portantino said the numbers are meaningless because the Assembly Rules Committee can change them whenever it wants, creating the illusion of overspending.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the punishment was because I didn't vote the way (Assembly Speaker John Pérez) wanted," Portantino said.

However Assembly officials tell a very different story, saying Portantino was repeatedly warned of overspending but did nothing about it. 

"It was about Anthony Portantino being incapable or unwilling to balance his own office budget," Pérez's spokeswoman Robin Swanson said. "He's been reckless with his spending, so that's what this is about."