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Amid CA Budget Crisis, Latino Pols Cruise like High Rollers

June 16th, 2009 · 39 Comments

As the state of California experiences a financial meltdown that will squeeze public education, health services, and really impact the poorest (read largely Latino) residents, it is frustrating to find articles like this one in today’s LA Times detailing the car expenses of some of California’s public servants. Even more crushing is the revelation that the top three most expensive vehicles purchased for state legislators are those for Senator Ron Calderon, Senator Gil Cedillo, and Senator Dean Florez. These public servants earn over $100,000 per year, have a benefit package that many of us would fork over our first born for, and enjoy other perks like per diem expense accounts, lunches with lobbyists, and lots of reimbursed travel.

I think that in a climate where so many of us are penny pinching, asking students to make sacrifices or go without summer school, Cal Grants, and face fee increases at public colleges and universities, it certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Californians to have to foot the bill for luxury cars for the state’s already well compensated elected leaders. I do want to note that Assemblyman Juan Arambula and Senator Gloria Romero are two noted Latinos who have declined a district car. Gracias Assemblyman Arambula and Senator Romero for not taking advantage of your benefits at our expense. You give me a bit of faith that perhaps the others will see the light.

Latinos were not the only legislators with fancy wheels, as others have taken advantage too. However, given the Southern California car club culture in our communities, these revelations play to a certain stereotype that we are materialistic and not very serious about our jobs and how we conduct ourselves.

On page two of the LA Times piece, I was particularly disturbed by this:

“Californians have paid for several accidents in the last three years that happened when lawmakers’ relatives were behind the wheel.

Maria Robles, the wife of then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, was driving his official vehicle in October 2006 when it struck the rear of another vehicle, costing the state $19,000.

Then-Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s son Javier “made a right turn in front of oncoming traffic” in a December 2006 accident that cost the state $22,000, state records say.”

Some argue that Californians are already over-taxed, and a few weeks ago, we witnessed the governor’s ballot measures fail at the polls, which would have helped close the gap in the state budget. UCLA economists expect that unemployment will rise to 12.1% by the end of the year and not go back to single digits until late 2011, yet some of our leaders are content to continue living the high life taking full advantage of every tax payer funded perk.

While car expenses can be viewed as a drop in the proverbial bucket, I believe that we should not turn a blind eye to these kinds of abuses. Every penny adds up. The $3.2 million that state legislators’ cars cost tax payers for three years could have been used to purchase textbooks, hire teachers, buy supplies in public health clinics. Why should we be paying for Maria Robles’s fender benders (wife of Fabian Nuñez) or for the son of former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s accidents? How can anyone reasonably justify these costs?

Photo: Cadillac STS, the most costly vehicle driven by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello)

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Tags: Economics · Education · ethics · Fabian Núñez · Gil Cedillo · Government Accountability · Maria Robles

39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 theKaiser // Jun 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I was wondering when Latinopoliticsblog was going to bring this up. Looks like the Los Angeles Times is making one last effort to perform public service and keep their readers informed of fiscal abuses by State politicians. Looks like Assemblyman Ron Calderon finally got out a ride to rival Hernan Cortes, only what empire did he conquer? Do Latino politicians understand what the word public service means? Or are they all lining their pockets like Loretta Sanchez. Well…your tax dollars at work.

  • 2 Michaelr // Jun 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    You should identify those five State Senators and 12 State Assembly members who have refused state purchased cars. These so-called public servants have a $116, 208 base salaries, which vastly increases for leadership positions, and a $36,000 tax free per diem allowance to defray living expenses away from home. Plus they get a gasoline credit card paid by us. You won’t be able to depend on the Los Angeles Times to follow up on this story.

  • 3 Anna // Jun 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I give up….

    You will never see the BIG picture, always minutiae that has little or no impact on the real issues.

  • 4 webmaster // Jun 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Anna,

    Have you ever heard the expression “the devil is in the details”?

    Look at this:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-uc17-2009jun17,0,3825007.story?track=rss

    UC is cutting enrollments in its freshman class. We need more college educated Californians, yet we have politicians who are content to take advantage of every little perk our tax dollars fund. How can you excuse these expenses when college dreams, textbook shortages, and public health clinic cuts are harsh realities?

    Why do you think Gloria Romero, who happens to be a great advocate for education and candidate for state superintendent, isn’t living high on the hog with state purchased cars?

    How can these people ask us to raise taxes and to make sacrifices on our end when they aren’t willing to do it for themselves?

  • 5 Anna // Jun 16, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    The issue is bigger than state purchased cars…

  • 6 Karla V Salazar // Jun 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Ana states that you are not focusing on the bigger fiscal impact issues when you address the mere $3.2 Million that we as taxpayers spend on one fine example of unnecessary subsidies.

    I completely disagree with her statement, yes it is only a mere “$3.2 Million” in the $24 Million deficit that we are currently in, however, the important message here is that our public servants action’s need to reflect the heart of our community.

    We all need to be frugal and thrifty when our fellow neighbors are loosing their homes and jobs. I am sure that the mere $3.2 Million could be of great benefit to many soup kitchens and/or community helalth clinics that are struggling.

  • 7 reenee // Jun 16, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    That so many of our elected public servants are lining their pockets and acting like rock stars does not surprise me.
    What does surprise me, is that they get away with it year after year after year.
    Their mindset must be like the Kings, Queens and Emperors of long ago who felt -and still feel in some places- that the peasants will be happy to bow as they drive by in full regalia.
    I’m sick of it and them and vote for a revolution.

  • 8 BettyM // Jun 17, 2009 at 11:34 am

    The car expenses are excessive and should be discontinued. They should try taking public transportation…..maybe the politicians would learn something.

  • 9 WhatThe.. // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    The unfortunate circumstance regarding the two party system is that it has morphed into a typical oligarchy, and continues to feed believers the illusion of democracy. How much of the illusion do you dare to believe before reality sets in…

  • 10 Anna // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Yeah, both parties are corrupt. They just cut 10 billion from K-12 education this year and next. Of course, they didn’t cut the prison budget. Many, if not most K-12 children are Latinos, which is why neither party in CA sees education spending as a priority. The plan for those kids is unemployment and prison. And nobody is doing anything about it.

    I can’t imagine that Hillary would have abandoned CA like this. Obama has turned out to be such a profound disappointment–a liar and lowlife of the highest order. I hope he loses in three years and that he and his wife Aunt Esther return to private life.

  • 11 Sandogg // Jun 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Anna, you must have been a real treat on the playground.

    You actually made a couple of points in your last statement that I can agree on, but do you have to always be such a chusma, and a racist one at that?

    Sure, this is the Latino Politics blog, but last I checked there are ethnicities in this state who attend public schools. Sure you could throw billions of dollars at education, and that still would not guarantee success. They may still end up in prisons. Too many in our “community” have the mindset that it is the state’s responsibility to raise their children. Home values and education ethics are the ones that need some work. I guarantee you that every successful latino, black, asian, etc. succeeded because of the values that were instilled by their parents, not by how much money was thrown at their school.

    Yeah, I’m not happy with Obama either, but racist pendejadas from your don’t help and are really uncalled for.

  • 12 Anna // Jun 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I hate to break this to you, but schools need funding. This shouldn’t even be a point of contention…SIGH. They’re transferring money from the schools to the prisons. Get a clue. You’re brainswahsed to think that you deserve nothing.

    And yes, people of all ethnicities attend public schools, but the children are increasingly non-white, which, in my opinion, is why K-12 funding is obviously not a priority for either party. I place part of this blame on Obama, the big teleprompter reading fraud. There is always money for war contractors, corrupt Wall St bankers, but none for school children. And California is a donor state, which means that we pay more in taxes than we receive in spending from the federal government. Has it been three and half years yet? I’m not voting for him, no matter what!!!

    As for my comment about his wife, the wanne be Jackie O in her own mind, that was one of my nicer comments about her!

  • 13 Sandogg // Jun 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I hate to break it to YOU, honey, but I think you are the one that is brainwashed. Since when did California become a welfare state that deserves handouts from the federal government? What is your fixation with Obama today? Cutting Arnold some slack today? California schools and budgets have been screwed up as far back as I can remember.

    As far as the feeling of entitlement that you seem to have, how about a little hard work? My parents immigrated legally from Mexico. My dad was a laborer who went to night school to get his apprenticeship so that he could get a better paying job. My mother had an 8th grade education and still managed to go to night school to learn English so that she could function in society. She worked hard her entire life and from my earliest memory stressed the importance of education. They both sacrificed so that their 3 children finished high school and all three went to college. Not ONE of us received any government benefits. So don’t talk to me about deserving anything! EVERYTHING WE GOT, WE EARNED!

    Pinchi peleonera TROLL!

    They

  • 14 Anna // Jun 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Re: “Since when did California become a welfare state that deserves handouts from the federal government?”

    As I said, CA is a donor state, and demanding that our OWN tax dollars be spent on our own schools instead of handed out to war contractors, insurance companies, corrupt Wall St. bankers, and failing European banks, is not asking for a handout. Why do we have to help pay for all that? What is wrong with you?!

    You take a perverse pride in letting people steal from you. If your attitude is common, and I fear it is, then I understand why nobody is howling over education cuts. It’s gotten past the point where people are even aware of what’s being stolen from them.

    My poor state. It’s going to be a prison plantation. :(

    As for Obama, he’s a liar who puts corporations ahead of Americans. He ‘s Bush’s third term. And saying that does not make me a troll. It’s the truth.

  • 15 El Cholo // Jun 17, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Anna…take your medication, and unscrew your head from your rectal canal. Public education from K-12 has ceased being a state priority since Reagan was the governor of California. The key to one’s success is to survive that experience and get into a UC, or California State University system school. The vast majority of tax money that is thrown at public education is robbed by the school administrators, state politicians, and textbook publishers. To survive as a public school teacher in California for the last thirty years requires a masochistic mentality. LAUSD administrators don’t want teachers to teach. They want babysitters to follow an approved manual. All the real teachers have fled to private or Charter schools. So quit being so inanely stupid. If you think more money invested into K-12 public education is going to save Latino children from the horrors of ignorance, you need to sit in a 6th grade classroom in the Baldwin Park Elementary School district and observe the priorities of those students. Look what public education did to you.

  • 16 Anna // Jun 17, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Re: “The key to one’s success is to survive that experience and get into a UC, or California State University system school.”

    Those budgets are being cut too. The plan is to eventually dismantle all of that. Don’t you get it?! Get over your intertia. Latinos only care about CIR. Everything else is like…uh, whatever.

    And not all public schools are like the ones you described, but they soon will be, if they’re even still open.

    When I read the book The Shock Doctrine, I didn’t think they would do it to CA.

  • 17 Michaelr // Jun 17, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    If President Obama was continuing the policies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, he would not have bailed out the banks, and began instituting policies similar to what FDR did after the Great Depression. Naomi Klein’s economic and political analysis would have continued had John McCain won the election, and/or Hillary Clinton been the Democratic nominee. Obama’s overturning of so many Bush Administration executive orders, should tell you exactly where he’s going, and what he wants to do. But of course you’re going to say something fictional and pass it on because you can’t stand him. The people, who could help you, don’t help, don’t help anyone but themselves. But you’re always there to defend them. That’s the tragedy of your mentality.

  • 18 Anna // Jun 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    The Bush Administration began the bank handouts, which are a massive transfer of wealth to the ruling class. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. Obama even kept Geithner , who worked for Bush.

    Obama has also kept Dubya’s illegal expansions of executive power, and is appealing to Congress to have them made permanent. He also just lobbied Congress to pass a 100 billion dollar war appropriations bill that includes bailout money for the European banks. Anti-war Democrats who refused to vote for the bill were told that DNC money would be witheld from the re-election campaigns.

    I don’t know why you think Obama has done anythng even remotely similar to FDR. He’s a tool of the corporations who falsely ran as a liberal anti-war candidate. If anybody had bothered to look at his voting record they would have seen that his votes were even more conservative than Hillary’s, but in the primaries the media depicted her as a Republican and Obama as a liberal. What a joke.

  • 19 Mexitli // Jun 17, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    You’re wasting your time, Anna.

    But if you have a blog or get one in the future, please let me know.

    digitalaztec [@] gmail.com

  • 20 theKaiser // Jun 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    That’s right you’re wasting your time here Anna. We don’t blindly honor politicians with Spanish surnames, because public thieves come in all colors, and its time the Latino community recognizes that and demands accountability from their public servants, Brown or not.

  • 21 dave palmer // Jun 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    If ya wanna really see all the gritty details about abuses involving legislative cars, go to my web site at http://www.noethics.net. The facts set forth in the recent LA Times story were provided to the reporter by me from public records I received from the State Senate and Assembly Rules Committees.

  • 22 Gustavo Arellano // Jun 18, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Every time I visit this blog, I see Anna apologizing for the sins of Latino politicians. Keep raising hell, Adriana!

  • 23 Anna // Jun 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I’m not apologizing for anyone. I can just tell the difference between trivial minutiae and REAL issues. You can’t.

    Dear Menso:

    Is that graphic of the man with a gold tooth that accompanies your column a self-portrait? The reason I ask is that I can’t think of any other reason why a minority in 2009 would include such a racist, stereotypical 19th century graphic with his column. Most people have more self-respect than that. Of course, if that’s how you really see yourself, you have my condolences.

    Sincerely,

    Puzzled by Menso Behavior

  • 24 CockroachPeople // Jun 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    So I asked my friends here in Illinois today if they happen to know what kind of cars our legislators are driving. Quite a few responses came back, some pointing out that many of our elected officials have private drivers with limos or Lincoln town cars. We are also in the middle of a budget crisis with our governor threatening a “doomsday” budget if we don’t implement a tax increase.

    I had not even thought of this issue. Thanks for getting us to think about these “little” things. I have not heard one legislator out here even suggest that they might give up their private driver or town car. I feel a blog coming on…I also think my colleagues might like this angle as we organize against our budget cuts.

  • 25 Mexitli // Jun 18, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Frankly, I’m against giving politicians any $ at all. But if theyre going to take it from us in the first plaace then buying high priced auto is a good way to put those tax $ back into circulation.

    Collecting tax is the “sin.” Not the way the money is spent. After all, how do you expect politicians to squander our tax $? Besides, it’s not a crime.

    Lastly, these perks are used to attract talented, experienced people. without these perks, private industry would suck up all the talent.

    Again, it’s the system. Not “Latino” or Anglo or Asian or whatever. So long as no crime is being committed then who the fuq cares?

    “…it certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Californians to have to foot the bill for luxury cars for the state’s already well compensated elected leaders.”

    No inventes.

    BTW, 100k is not a lot of money.

    Why dont you write something about the public service employees union and their 80-100% pay on retirement- after just 20 years of, cough, cough, “service”?

  • 26 Sandogg // Jun 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    OMG, that’s too funny! “…these perks are used to attract talented, experienced people. without these perks, private industry would suck up all the talent.”

    I think you might be referring to some of the wealthy republicans, because this certainly doesn’t apply to any of the dems

  • 27 Anna // Jun 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Re: “Why dont you write something about the public service employees union and their 80-100% pay on retirement- after just 20 years of, cough, cough, “service”?

    What’s wrong with that? That’s not what’s bankrupting the state. The Republicans don’t want any workers to make decent wages, or to have a good retirement. They want us to be third world slaves with no retirement, healthcare, or education.

    Why are we told that our money has to bail out Wall St crooks and pay for bogus wars, but that we can’t use our own money on education, healthcare or retirement?! These CEOs won’t lower their million dollar salaries even though they’ve destroyed the economy, but a firefighter or a policeman or a janitor who has worked hard all his life is told that he has to give up his retirement? No way.

    As soon as Arnold took office, he borrowed money, gave corporations deep tax cuts, gave more money to prisons, and then made deep cuts in education and healthcare.

    That’s what hurting this state. Not retirement programs that help people live like human beings after working all their lives.

    We shouldn’t give up anything that would lower our standard of living.

  • 28 Michaelr // Jun 18, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks Gary Palmer for your extensive research. It was so enlightening. On page 77 of your pdf, you are showing Antonio Villaraigosa driving 120,626 miles in 2000. How can you reasonably drive that many miles without being a long haul truck driver? What was Villaraigosa doing while he was an Assemblyman? Was he making weekly driving trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City and charging it to the taxpayer? When did he do work in his district? Was he counting nap time as drive time? Just by your numbers, it’s fairly reasonable to assume that Villaraigosa defrauded the State of California with his mileage alone. Then again we’re not really surprised by that.

  • 29 Michaelr // Jun 18, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Excuse me…Thanks Dave Palmer.

  • 30 El Cholo // Jun 18, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    You have an interesting website Dave Palmer. Thanking for joining our discussion. What’s with Ron Calderon’s taxpayer financed $2,400 18” chrome wheels and tires on his taxpayer financed Cadillac CTS? Does homie need that to feel at home in his district? And how obscenely ridiculous is Alex Padilla’s taxpayer financed $5,650 18” chrome wheels and tires for his taxpayer financed Camry Hybrid? Are those 18” chrome wheels inlaid with gold siding and diamond encrusted spinners? Did someone anoint Alex Padilla King, Tyrant, and Master? How classless must these people be? Straight from the ghetto to Statehouse with all their small-minded, self-serving, looking forward to the next gala behavior intact. No wonder the State Legislature can’t accomplish anything, because all these homies know how to do is steal from the public.

  • 31 Mexitli // Jun 19, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Unions actually cause unemployment. At a higher price, less is consumed. This law applies to labor as well. The so called public sector is not exempt.

    Those public service employees that do receive 100% of their pay on retirement are living comfy at the expense of some unemployed poor slob that cannot find a job because the budget is maxed out and there is no money left over to hire him/her.

    Putting those that create employment before the firing squad has been done before. Most systems where this was done have reverted back to markets with the exceptions of countries like No. Korea and Cuba. Two countries not known for their rip roaring GDP’s.

    Politicos are generous with taxpayer bucks because it’s not their money. That’s why these union contracts were signed in the first place. But come hard times they wont accept responsibility for the mess they helped create. Business persons are much more prudent and would never pay anyone full wages w/benefits upon retirement. Also, it’s not enough to blame the retirees, workers that make above market wages thanks to union contracts are doing so at the expense of the unemployed. You wont see the unions championing their cause, however, because the unemployed do not pay union dues.

    Now in the case of these corps. that do pay what appears to be exorbitant amounts of money to their CEO’s (golden parachutes), I would suggest that they earned it by creating wealth through growing output and, hence, GDP. When compared to the wealth they create these so called golden parachutes add up to just a tiny percentage.

    That’s hard to do. Few people can accomplish this which adds to their worth as CEO’s.

    On the issue of taxes, Corporations do not pay taxes. Consumers do. Corporations merely collect the money. This represents an additional cost to businesses which, in turn, further raise the prices of goods and services on consumers which leads to less consumption, which leads to less demand for labor, which means fewer workers can afford houses, insurance(s) and educations for their children.

    Focusing on what a politico drives and who pays for it is petty and it steals the focus away from the real issue(s); for example, having the highest paid teachers in the world and the worst test scores and drop out rates.

    Faulting the people that create employment while championing the organizations that create UN-employment reminds me of my grandmother’s old saying: “Por tarugo no estudio.”

    Lastly, a politico’s race, religion or “Latino” (whatever that is), has nothing to do with anything. Unless you are suggesting that they have greater propensities for abusing the public trust. If so, pony up.

  • 32 Mexitli // Jun 19, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Just to clarify, unions that represent workers in the private sector negotiate with management to get as much as they can for their workers WITHOUT bankrupting the company.

    Public service employee unions appear to have a sense of entitlement that they use to justify their part in bankrupting city and state coffers.

    The politicos, who, in cases like these take the place of private management, sign contracts with unions based not in increases in output but on what they think people “Should” be making instead. It’s just a matter of time before the city or state that gets itself into these contracts winds up bankrupt.

  • 33 Anna // Jun 19, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Re: “Those public service employees that do receive 100% of their pay on retirement are living comfy at the expense of some unemployed poor slob that cannot find a job because the budget is maxed out and there is no money left over to hire him/her.”

    Sorry, but that’s just wrong. It’s right wing propaganda, which is all you hear anymore on the news and on the radio. I guess you think it’s better to have a bunch of people making ten dolars an hour with no retirement benefits or healthcare. That’s third world!

    Public employees unions are not what’s wrong with the budget. The problem with the budget is that Arnold borrowed money year after year with the GOAL of running up a debt/deficit to crash the government. He created a “crisis.” Then he uses that as an excuse to cut everything the Republicans hate, like education, retirement, healthcare, etc.

    Read “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein and you will understand why this budget crisis never seems to go away no matter how much we cut or raise taxes.

    No matter how much we cut or tax, as long as Arnold or any Republican is in charge there will be be a non-stop budget “crisis.”

  • 34 BettyM // Jun 19, 2009 at 9:52 am

    The comments on this blog really make you stop and think about what is happening to our society. Thanks for the topic(s).

  • 35 WhatThe.. // Jun 19, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Look for the union label
    when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse.

    Remember somewhere our union’s sewing,
    our wages going to feed the kids, and run the house.

    We work hard, but who’s complaining?
    Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way!

    So always look for the union label,
    it says we’re able to make it in the U.S.A.!

  • 36 Gustavo Arellano // Jun 19, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Anna: It’s called satire. You know, humor—of which you’re sorely lacking. Better me be a menso than an apologist like you. But gracias for reading nevertheless!

  • 37 Anna // Jun 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Satire? That’s more like minstrel humor.

  • 38 Mexitli // Jun 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I’ve read the Shock Doctrine.

    “Public employees unions are not what’s wrong with the budget. The problem with the budget is that Arnold borrowed money year after year with the GOAL of running up a debt/deficit to crash the government. He created a “crisis.” Then he uses that as an excuse to cut everything the Republicans hate, like education, retirement, healthcare, etc.”

    Now this is what I call a conspiracy theory.

    “Sorry, but that’s just wrong. It’s right wing propaganda, which is all you hear anymore on the news and on the radio. I guess you think it’s better to have a bunch of people making ten dolars an hour with no retirement benefits or healthcare. That’s third world!”

    I took my first econ class fresh out of the Army way back in ’82. Before there was right wing radio or cable news.

    My first job paid me just $1.00 a day. I was 8 years old. My benefit package included something to eat and occasionally some used Hot Wheels, usually with the wheels missing.

    People who make $10.00 need to better themselves.

  • 39 germanicus // Jul 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I’m thinking the issue is ” sacrifice “;
    I see precious little of it from adults & community leaders.

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