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State Senator, Controller in cost-cuts catfight

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 12:21 pm in Abel Maldonado, California State Senate, General, John Chiang, state budget.

State Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, issued a scathing news release today accusing State Controller John Chiang of requesting $2 million in new furniture for his staff in the past seven months.

“How can the controller justify this action? People are hurting in this state. The Legislature is trying to fix a $42 billion deficit, which the controller reminds us grows larger every day. And yet the controller, who is responsible for our money, feels it is acceptable to take more unnecessary funding for his own office. I can’t even express my disgust with this behavior,” Maldonado wrote.

“Where are Chiang’s priorities? How can he say to the media that we’re out of money and he has to issue IOUs but behind closed doors buy new furniture for his office? Chiang needs a reality check. We should be putting the needs of our constituents first, not the need for nicer offices.

Chiang’s office fired back that Maldonado’s claims are “pathetic.” Had the lawmaker done his homework, the controller’s office said, he’d know that the office expansion project requiring this furniture was begun before Chiang took office, and that he already has cut its cost by more than half yet still will bring his staff’s offices into compliance with workplace safety and disability laws.

“We would urge the Senator to check his math, stop grand-standing and get back to work on negotiating a solution to the State’s $42 billion budget gap, and the lack of money to fund programs Californians depend on their legislators to provide,” Chiang’s release said.

Read both their statements in their entirety, after the jump…

From Maldonado:

Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) today issued the following statement related to the State Controller, John Chiang, ordering $2 million of new office furniture in the middle of a budget crisis:

“The same day the governor vetoed the Democrats’ budget proposal, the Controller’s office requested $924,500 worth of new office furniture from this fiscal year! How is that acceptable? Here is an elected official who is in the press every day talking about cutting services, stopping checks to welfare recipients and issuing IOUs to hardworking Californians. But at the exact same time, he is requesting new office furniture. This disgusting and disingenuous behavior has to end.

“But it gets worse. This isn’t the first time the controller has asked for new office furniture. Just seven months ago, he requested another $924,500 for more new office furniture. All told, in the past seven months, the controller has requested almost $2 million for 550 new ‘modular systems furniture workstations.’ This type of double-speak has to end. How dare the controller, who more than anyone else in the state understands just how dire our budget system is, dupe the people of California like this!” Maldonado stated.

According to documents provided by the State Controller’s office, not only did the Controller request nearly $2 million worth of new office furniture, but also did not check to see if there was surplus furniture available prior to making the appropriation request.

“How can the controller justify this action? People are hurting in this state. The Legislature is trying to fix a $42 billion deficit, which the controller reminds us grows larger every day. And yet the controller, who is responsible for our money, feels it is acceptable to take more unnecessary funding for his own office. I can’t even express my disgust with this behavior,” Maldonado continued.

Senator Maldonado has been critical of legislators who have continued to take per diem during the budget deficit. He has introduced two constitutional amendments, SCAs 7 and 8, which would prevent legislators from receiving their pay or per diem during a budget stalemate and prevent legislators from receiving a pay raise during a budget deficit, respectively.

“Where are Chiang’s priorities? How can he say to the media that we’re out of money and he has to issue IOUs but behind closed doors buy new furniture for his office? Chiang needs a reality check. We should be putting the needs of our constituents first, not the need for nicer offices.

“It is this type of institutional hypocrisy that must end if we are ever going to implement real reform in this state. How can we expect the people of California to trust us with their money when the State Controller issues IOUs but demands new office furniture? These are simple, common-sense reforms. Legislators and constitutional officers alike must stop acting like they are immune to the downfalls in the economy and must acknowledge the serious situation we’re in. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Chiang. Stop this hypocritical behavior now,” Maldonado concluded.

The State Controller’s plush office, which is located on the top floor of 300 Capitol Mall, has scenic view of downtown Sacramento. Chiang also took a 2.75 percent pay raise in 2007.

The 2008 and 2009 purchase orders as well as audio clips from Senator Maldonado are attached to this release..

Related Documents: Work Order #1 (pdf) – Work Order #2 (pdf)

From Chiang’s office:

It is very unfortunate that Sen. Maldonado has made these pathetic allegations about State Controller John Chiang.

Had he done any homework, the Senator would have realized that the expansion project, including furniture, at the State Controller’s Office’s Cannery Business Park campus began before Controller Chiang took office. The funding was approved by the Legislature at $996,000 a year, beginning in fiscal year 2007-08, and was scheduled to continue for seven years.

Controller Chiang demanded that staff cut down the costs, and by changing financing, materials, design, and construction, reduced the overall expense of the project by more than 50%. Originally estimated to cost $7 million, the project is estimated to come in at $4 million and will protect SCO employees at the C Street campus by reducing fire and safety hazards and bringing the campus into compliance with both OSHA and Americans with Disability Act standards.

In his press release, Senator Maldonado states the Controller requested almost $1 billion in office furniture ($924,500,000). We would urge the Senator to check his math, stop grand-standing and get back to work on negotiating a solution to the State’s $42 billion budget gap, and the lack of money to fund programs Californians depend on their legislators to provide.

UPDATE @ 1:10 P.M.: Oops. This just in from Chiang’s office — “Correction: Controller Chiang has saved $4 million for the state, bringing in a $7 million project at $3 million, not $4 million.”

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  • StevefroSacto

    Pity that Maldonado is trying to deflect attention from his party’s primary responsibility for the current budget impasse.

    I pray that the people will become angry enough to get the message across, especially to the Republicans, that they need to get the job done or get out of the way. The stalemate is the result of the GOP’s “no new taxes” pledge. It may have made for good headlines months ago, but sustaining it to the point of budgetary chaos is irresponsible.

    I still hope Maldonado will not become another Republican zombie that puts ideology above the best interests of our state.

  • Ed

    I’m a rep and I’m think to Recall all of them if this Budget don’t pass within two days Yes I’m draw a line in the sands if it call for raising tax’s so be it we need to wake up and know that we as America need this State and all State to be working for a strong America!

    WAKE UP AMERICA AND PASS THIS BUDGET!