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Lawmaker’s staff targeted due to budget vote

A Democratic assemblyman says his entire staffs in the Capitol and his home district face being placed on leave without pay for at least a month as retribution from Democratic leaders for his vote on the state budget.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, said the “bizarre and unprecedented action” stemmed from his vote against the rewritten budget that was approved by the Legisature and sent to the governor, who signed it last month. Portantino was the sole Assembly Democrat to oppose the budget.

“I knew that my vote ran counter to the wishes of the Assembly Democratic leadership,” Portantino said in a statement released Monday by his office.

“The consequences for voting my conscience were not long in coming,” he added. Portantino said he received “a letter from Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, chair of the Rules Committee, (who) …informed me that my previously-approved budget for office expenses has been slashed for the third and fourth quarters of this year. The letter further stated that ‘effective Oct. 21, 2011 through Nov. 30, 2011,” my entire Capitol and District staff’ will be placed on leave without pay.”

Skinner, D-Oakland, rejected Portantino’s allegation as “curiously paranoid,” saying he had been warned before about excessive spending in his office, and that the Rules Committee was charged with keeping a close eye on expenses.

“We are responsible for  making sure that members do not expend beyond what is allocated,” she said. “If every member were to over expend their budget by the amount that he has, we would have $5.4 million in excess spnding.”

A July 8 letter to Portantino, Skinner said his office expenses for the third and fourth quarters of the year had not been approved, and asked for Portantino to provide a spending plan by the end of next week.

Absent that, the letter continued, “employees will be given notice as soon as possible that they will be placed on leave without pay,” including Capitol, district and Select Committee staffers. The payless period would cover Oct,. 21 through Nov. 30, the letter noted.


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