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Assembly Democrat claims retaliation for his 'no' vote on state budget

July 11, 2011 |  1:18 pm

The lone Assembly Democrat who voted against the state budget last month is claiming his party’s leaders are now punishing him for his opposition.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) said the chamber’s Rules Committee informed him Friday that his office budget had been slashed and that, in the absence of an alternative spending plan, his Capitol and district staff would be placed on unpaid leave for more than a month in the fall.

“This bizarre and unprecedented action is clearly intended to punish me for my vote and to discourage other Assembly Members from performing their duties in a conscientious manner,” Portantino said in a statement.

In a letter to Portantino last week, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chairwoman of the rules committee, said Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) had not approved the lawmaker’s office funds for the third and fourth quarters of the legislative session and that Portantino’s office now faces a deficit of $67,179. She made no mention of the state budget.

Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Perez, defended the action, saying it was purely fiscal. Portantino had failed to heed warnings that he had overspent his office budget, she said.

"The Speaker made the determination that during difficult budget times, it would be unfair to other Members to continue to subsidize Mr. Portantino beyond his office's approved budget," she said.

Portantino called the matter a “charade of concern about office expenses.”

Nevertheless, in the Capitol, it is not uncommon for such a fate to suddenly befall a lawmaker who bucks the party establishment: Legislators get moved to smaller offices and lose committee positions. In one case, a lawmaker was even booted from the building and moved across the street.

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento