Add local legislator Katcho Achadjian to the small but growing list of state Assembly members who are doing the right thing by voluntarily releasing their office budgets for the current year.
Achadjian earns extra credit for making his summary expense statement both comprehensive and easy to understand.
Achadjian lays out exactly where his money comes from: There’s a base budget of $263,000 per Assembly member, and there’s an “augmentation” doled out by the Republican Party Caucus.
In Achadjian’s case, that augmentation amounts to $50,000 — an amount that reflects his freshman status.
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Augmentations can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for senior members in leadership positions. Chairs of committees also receive additional funding.
But it’s hard to say exactly who receives what because, in a shameful lack of transparency, the Assembly has been unwilling to release current budget information for all of its members.
Some background: Calls for release of Assembly office budgets were fueled, in large part, by the recent feud between Assembly Speaker John Perez and Democrat Anthony Portantino of La Cañada-Flintridge.
Portantino was the only Democrat who voted against the state budget, and in the aftermath he accused Perez of slashing his office budget to punish him for his vote. Perez asserted that the budget was cut because Portantino overspends. Portantino, of course, denied that.
We find the very idea appalling. For party leadership to withhold office funds is a repugnant way to keep party members in line. It affects not only the lawmaker — who, after all, will be paid no matter what — but also staff members who depend on a steady income to support themselves and their families.
We believe that the best way to guard against such petty machinations is to make office budgets absolutely transparent, in both the Assembly and Senate.
Yet when several members of the media asked for the release of budgets for all Assembly members, that request was refused. The Sacramento Bee — The Tribune’s sister paper — and The Los Angeles Times sued the state Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Assembly Republican Caucus last week called on the Assembly Rules Committee to release the expenditures for all 80 Assembly members.
Sure, the request was no doubt motivated, to some degree, by self-interest — who wouldn’t want credit for looking out for the taxpayers? — but it’s nonetheless the right call. These are public funds, and lawmakers should be willing to account for how they are spent.
Again, we applaud Assemblyman Achadjian for promptly releasing a budget summary shortly after The Tribune made the request.
We should also note that state Sen. Sam Blakeslee is preparing to release the budget for his office as soon as he receives the necessary information from the Senate Rules Committee. That’s good — but this should not be a matter of individual choice.
We urge both the state Senate and Assembly to release the information for all members.