How a fiscal conservative spends his allowance

Back in January Rick Keene was appointed to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which audits state agencies, including community college faculty salaries and state contracts such as the controversial $95 million deal with the Oracle software company.

“This appointment is a great opportunity,” he told the Paradise Post. “The state of California does not have the strongest record of accountability to taxpayers. As California faces its biggest financial crisis in its history, I will work to fight waste and abuses.

“One of our foremost responsibilities as legislators is to ensure that the government is responsible for what it spends. It has repeatedly demonstrated to me that, in the absence of oversight, waste, fraud and abuse proliferate. Unfortunately, the state has not done enough to ensure accountability to the taxpayers.”

Here is Keene’s own accountability to the taxpayers as requested by the CN&R from the Assembly Rules Committee.

All assemblymembers receive an annual salary of $99,000, plus a $125 per diem allowance when the Assembly is in session. From Dec. 2, 2002, through June 30, 2003, Keene received $21,000 of session per diem on top of his salary. Each assemblymember gets $264,000 to spend on staff salaries, travel, monthly vehicle lease ($350 max), district office maintenance, utilities, telephone, postage, furniture and equipment, publications, subscriptions and office supplies.

Keene’s staffers, at least four of them, are paid out of this budget. Brent R. Ten Pas, Keene’s principal assistant in Sacramento, receives $4,861 per month; Lauren Prehoda, his secretary, is paid $2,045 monthly; while field representatives Steve Thompson and Jan Winters are paid $2,708 and $3,501 per month, respectively. Cliff Wagner, Keene’s chief of staff, is not listed and most likely is paid by the state Republican Caucus. A source in the Assembly Rules Office said paying someone out of the caucus was not unusual “when the member’s budget won’t cover all the salaries.”

To drive his GMC Yukon, Keene has to kick in an extra $123.56 per month of his own money to cover the $473.56 monthly lease. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to pay for the gas to move the big vehicle—taxpayers do. From Dec. 2 through June 30 Keene racked up $1,953.61 on his state-issued gasoline credit card. That is more than 2,000 gallons of gasoline for a vehicle that gets about 15 miles per gallon. The state paid another $420.73 in maintenance costs for the Yukon.—Tom Gascoyne