A Fishy Mailer That Smells Like Its Been in the Sun Too Long
This is a recent mailing from Andy Pugno, a GOP candidate for the 5th Assembly Distract, a seat from which Roger Niello is forced out because of term limits. Pugno, a lawyer and previously counsel for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, is a former legislative staffer. His Democratic opponent, Dr. Richard Pan, is a pediatrician.
Seems like the person who might fit in better in the Legislature is the one who was previously employed there. Dr. Pan’s allegedly profligate spending is detailed here on the back of the mailer.
In the small italic print, an observant reader will see that this “wasteful government spending,” $50,000 to create a giant salmon statue, was approved by the Sacramento First Five Commission.
There is a First Five Commission in each of California’s 58 counties. The bulk of the local funds are in Los Angeles and Orange County, however. There is a statewide First Five Commission as well.
Ostensibly, the commissions are working to improve the quality of life of children up to age 5.
However, there is very little oversight of these commissions because the Rob Reiner backed 1998 initiative creating them provided very little. The late Sen. Dave Cox, whose seat Niello is running for, made a crusade out of increasing oversight on how these commissions spend their money.
“Since its inception, First 5 California and its 58 county bureaucracies have been tainted with scandals because they lack accountability,’ said Cox of his 2008 measure to eliminate the commission.
In his 2009 budget plan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed taking away half the money in the hands of the local commissions, some $275 million. That did not occur.
Besides not saying that as a former employee of the Legislature he’s just about as much of a “political appointee” as a person can be, Candidate Pugno omits that funding for the First Five commissions comes from a 50-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes. So if taxpayer money is being “wasted,” it’s a small number of taxpayers footing the bill.
It’s a category of taxpayer that’s getting smaller all the time. In a 2009 report, the state Department of Public Health says that, as of 2007, 13.8 percent of Californians smoke. Out of a population of 39 million that’s about 5.4 million people. Down from almost 23 percent, 22 years ago.
Candidate Pugno also notes that California has a $19 billion budget deficit and teachers are being laid off. While the efficacy of creating a concrete fish can easily be argued, none of the $50,000 spent on the statute comes from the state’s cash-starved general fund.
The general fund, in the budget signed October 8 by the GOP governor, is approximately $88 billion. Were the concrete fish paid for out of the general fund, it would represent .0000005681 percent.
With respect, a big “part of the problem” are disingenuous mailers that play fast with the facts and focus on the inconsequential.
More illuminating might be some ideas on how Dr. Pan or Candidate Pugno plan to close what’s currently estimated at a $21.3 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011.
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