Monday, July 5, 2010
California State lawmakers aren’t officially out on summer recess, but most of them aren’t at the Capitol, either. That’s despite the fact that there’s no state budget deal in sight. The situation is frustrating some legislators.
That was the official word from Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg about the scheduled month-long break. But lawmakers are allowed to head back to their districts to work there as long as they can make it back to Sacramento within 24 hours.
Democratic Assemblyman Alberto Torrico bristles at the suggestion that lawmakers are taking time off.
“We’re all going to be within a day’s travel to be here to vote on the budget. It usually takes 2-3 days to print the budget, so by no means should anyone think that we’ve stopped.”
Torrico says he’ll be hanging around to help with budget talks. Republican Assemblywoman Jean Fuller says she has work to do in her Bakersfield district, but she’d rather be wrapping up the budget.
“We all have district offices and in my case we have a lot of constituent work that piles up, and a lot of letters, a lot of people to meet with and hear their concerns but I think the biggest issue that’s on everybody’s mind is they’d like us to finish the budget – so it would be better to be up here and finish it.”
But Fuller points out that if all lawmakers were required to stay, the state would have to pay them per diem, or daily living expenses.
“Given the fact that the leadership doesn’t seem to have the votes rounded up, I would not want to spend money to keep people up here not doing anything.”
Sacramento-based Independent Political Consultant Leo McElroy says it’s also about perception.
“There are a lot of people who feel that if they haven’t done a budget, they ought to stick around, even if there isn’t anything for them to do.”
Democratic Senator Joe Simitian says he expects to be back and forth between Sacramento and his district that includes parts of the San Francisco Bay Area this month. He says he’ll hold sidewalk office hours at farmer’s markets:
“I just did about a half a dozen of these over the past couple of weeks and the budget conversation hasn’t yet really begun in earnest. I think during the sidewalk office hours I have scheduled during the summer months I’m likely to hear more about a budget the longer and longer we go without having brought this budget to a successful conclusion.”
The legislative leaders will stay in Sacramento to meet with Governor Schwarzenegger to try to work out an agreement that solves the state’s $19 billion budget problem.