Part of the Bay Area News Group

How tight-fisted was your House member?

By Josh Richman
Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 4:40 pm in Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren.

As various national media reported over the weekend, House members are under pressure to ratchet down their office budgets – and one Northern California lawmaker is touting his frugality as a result.

USA Today presented the data on members’ 2011 budget allocations so that it could be arranged in order of the percentage spent – thereby telling us who’s been most tight-fisted with his or her office budget.

Nationally, the biggest spender was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who overshot his budget by about $8,500; his office told USA Today he will be under budget once all books for the year are reconciled. (The data was as of Dec. 31.) And the nation’s most frugal House member appears to have been Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who spent only 60 percent of the $1,453,472 he was allotted for 2011.

The average House office budget for 2011 was $1.45 million, USA Today reported, with different members allotted different amounts based on factors including a district’s geographical size, its distance from Washington, D.C., local office rental costs and so on. Also, lawmakers who’ve been in Congress for longer tend to have more experienced staffers who draw higher salaries.

Lawmakers must cut their budgets by 6.4 percent this year after a 5 percent cut in 2011.

Here’s how the Bay Area’s members stacked up with their 2011 budget allotments and the percentages they actually spent:

  • Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma – $1,520,019 – 97.8 percent
  • Mike Thompson, D-Napa – $1,488,110 – 97.1 percent
  • Mike Honda, D-Campbell – $1,513,347 – 95.6 percent
  • Pete Stark, D-Fremont – $1,493,927 – 94.9 percent
  • Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – $1,563,124 – 94.1 percent
  • George Miller, D-Martinez – $1,452,987 – 93.9 percent
  • Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose – $1,480,567 – 92.0 percent
  • Barbara Lee, D-Oakland – $1,518,030 – 91.6 percent
  • Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – $1,671,596 – 91.4 percent
  • Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – $1,640,268 – 87.1 percent
  • Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – $1,473,929 – 85.3 percent
  • John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove – $1,467,605 – 77.8 percent
  • Garamendi issued a news release today crowing that he was more frugal than 395 of his House colleagues.

    “I want to see less money spent on Congress and more resources paying down our deficit and investing in our schools, roads, health coverage, and veteran’s services,” he said in the release. “I’ve balanced the checkbook for the family ranch. I know how to make more with less. I’m proud that we managed to stay so under budget while still maintaining robust communications with and support for 10th Congressional District residents.”

    But Garamendi – who’s running for re-election this year in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District – was quick to note his frugality doesn’t mean he’s out of touch. He said he hosted more than a dozen in-person and telephone town halls last year or early this year, plus resource fairs for job seekers, veterans, seniors, social services and small businesses and other events.

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    • RR, Senile Columnist

      Yeah baby! The 99 pc’ers will be impressed! It cost almost as much to prevent them from crippling SF and Oaktown as it does to run the local solons’ offices.

    • Elwood

      A million five each and for what?

      Think of all the GOOD things that could have been done with that money!

    • Jean Womack

      Living within your means is really something to be proud of. I am glad you found enuf money in your office budget to finally be able to communicate outside of the 10th CD! I went up to the El CERRITO city council meet with school board there too, to help ask for money for WriterCoach Connection, but Dr Harter, supt. of WCCUSD said they can’t spend money they don’t have. An old Peace Corps guy runs it. I know we can’t get money unless we sk for it.

    • Jean Womack

      I AJ willing to work for free one morning a week. But I.think the organizers should get paid.

    • Jean Womack

      Sorry about the typos. It’s hard to type on this cell phone.

    • moderate voter

      What troubles me about this spending is 43% of it’s borrowed, mostly from China. As I understand it 43% of every federal dollar spent is borrowed, so when I see Representatives paying all these staffer hanger-ons big bucks I don’t like it. I think it’s okay to borrow money to build things – freeways or bridges, something that will last, create some wealth over long haul, but paying staffer flunkie hanger-ons with borrowed money, that’s not too cool. I’m old enough to remember when Representatives had three staffers, now they have an army, which they pay with borrowed money.