Hey, California state Senate: You're kidding, right? You didn't really charge the state $111,316 for lunch and snacks last year. You didn't really think that was some kind of entitlement you earned for working through the noon hour in the Capitol as debate over the last Schwarzenegger budget dragged through the summer. Tell us you were planning to pay it back, seeing as you each already get $95,291 a year in salary (more for those in leadership posts), plus another $143 per day to pay for your expenses, like, well, lunch.
Times staff writers Shane Goldmacher and Patrick McGreevy reported Sunday on the Senate's free meals program — "free" meaning free to the members of the Senate, but charged to the taxpayers. Last year's budget was so late that the state was obliged to suspend payments to child-care centers and other service providers and contractors, but they didn't get taxpayer-subsidized lunches. They didn't even get their contracts paid on time.
Come on senators, get a clue. The point is not how much better that $111,316 could have been spent (although, come to think of it, the money might have provided a few thousand decent lunches for the children, seniors and disabled whose state assistance you were so busy cutting). The point is that at a time when the state and the people it serves have to make do with less, you're triple-dipping. Your salaries are high enough to pay for lunch. Your per diems are high enough to pay for lunch. Yet you're billing the state.