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15 Area Legislators Ran Up Expenses of $5.1 Million in 1988

June 11, 1989|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Taxpayers shelled out $5.1 million for 15 Southeast and Long Beach area state lawmakers last year for everything from staff salaries and district offices to travel and telephones, according to recent reports.

Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk) spent $613,140, a tab that was the second highest in the Legislature and 21% above the Senate average of $483,476. The top spender, Sen. Henry J. Mello (D-Watsonville), ran up expenses totaling $715,280.

Among the reasons Green cited for his tab were a large staff required to oversee district office programs and answer his mail, which he estimated is three times heavier than that of his predecessor, Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Cypress). Also, Green's district office operation cost $51,221, more than any other senator.

Green, who was elected in 1987, minimized his ranking, declaring it "doesn't make any difference" and asserting his staff is "doing probably more than the average" to reach out to constituents.

Reports Released

The expense reports, prepared annually by the Assembly and Senate Rules committees, were released last month.

Other highlights included: Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-San Pedro) spending $13,117 for in-state travel, the most of any Assembly member; former Assemblyman Paul E. Zeltner (R-Lakewood) leading the area's Assembly delegation in spending, and Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Los Alamitos) ranking second to last in expenses among the 80 members of the lower house.

In the Senate, for the 12 months ending last Nov. 30, Green was followed by Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), $458,909; Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), $406,575; Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach), $399,706; Ralph C. Dills (D-Gardena), $350,144, and Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles), $339,967.

Among the area's nine Assembly members, former Assemblyman Paul E. Zeltner (R-Lakewood) topped the list with $296,863 in expenses, 6% above the average of $279,192.

Zeltner, a one-term lawmaker who last November lost his reelection bid, said he believed his office expenses were within the budget limits imposed by the Assembly. .

Among Assembly members, Zeltner was followed by Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), $292,308; Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk), who also was defeated last November, $278,765; Frank Hill (R-Whittier), $278,291; Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), $266,699; Theresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles), $262,521; Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier), $254,168; Elder, $226,544, and Brown, $205,665.

The figures include staff salaries, travel, cars, district office expenses, newsletters, postage, telephones, furniture, equipment, supplies, subscriptions and photocopying.

Senate Costs More

It generally costs more to run a Senate office than an Assembly office because senators represent larger constituencies. In the Senate, members are allotted different amounts, based on the size of their districts and the cost-of-living in cities where their district offices are located.

In the Senate, expenses increased about 7% compared to 1987, mostly because of normal cost of living increases, according to Cliff Berg, Senate Rules Committee executive officer.

The Assembly in 1988 limited each member's expenses to $254,700, excluding $87 a day in living expenses the members received while in session to supplement their salaries. But the allotment did not include some expenses, such as the cost of mailing newsletters.

Bob Connelly, Assembly Rules Committee chief administrative officer, said Assembly expenses last year jumped 13% from 1987. Among the reasons he cited were a 4% cost-of-living increase and a delay in receiving $500,000 worth of 1987 printing bills, where were paid in 1988.

The totals do not reflect staff and other costs connected with committee assignments. Some lawmakers who head committees have additional staff and expenses connected to their extra duties.

But Elder, who chairs the Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee, said his combined office and committee expenses ranked the fourth lowest among the 26 lawmakers who head committees. His combined office and committee expenses totaled $463,464, he said.

Working on Report

Asked about his high in-state travel bills, Elder said that in the last year he carried an unusually heavy workload that required him to fly to Sacramento when the Legislature was not in session. Among other things, Elder said he was involved in preparing a 66-page report on the state's public pension funds after the Oct. 19, 1987, stock market crash. When the Legislature was not in session in the fall of 1987 and 1988, Elder said, "I was working on the report almost nonstop."

Elder also noted that the state did not pick up the cost of any of his out-of-state travel.

"We try every way we can to economize," Elder maintained, saying that instead of paying for some postage, he shuttles mail back and forth from his district office to the Capitol in his "very large briefcase."

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