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California's state senators see the light: No 'free' lunches

November 9, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Steinberg rich pedroncelli AP oct. 9 2009
On Sunday, Times staff writers Shane Goldmacher and Patrick McGreevy reported that members of the state Senate had treated themselves to taxpayer-financed lunches, in addition to their $95,291 salaries and their $143 per diems. We followed up Tuesday with an editorial ridiculing the senators and calling on them to pay back the money. As McGreevy reported Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, met by phone late Tuesday and voted to start billing themselves, and not the taxpayers, to stock the lunchroom.

Some readers were unimpressed. YankeeMikeBravo noted that the money spent comes to about 0.001% of the state budget. I haven't pulled out the calculator, but yes, the amount is small by comparison. And tod503 calls it a "non-issue" given too much focus by The Times, and says that we ought to be going after bigger things.

Well, sure, it's a tiny amount of money in comparison with the mess the state is in. But it's important to hold our representatives to account for nickle-and-diming us, and it's not an either/or. This lunch thing was blatant, obvious and easy, so we said so.

By the way, they aren't (yet) paying back what they already spent on "free" lunches, but they've taken a step in the right direction, and good for them. It's good to see elected officials respond to Times reporting and editorializing with such alacrity. Because this worked out so well, we'll update our list of other things we'd like to see them do.

But first a note of appreciation to Julie Sauls, spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Jean Fuller of Bakersfield. Fuller missed the vote due to illness, but her stance toward taxpayer-funded lunches was summed up by  Sauls, as quoted Wednesday by McGreevy: "There is a cafeteria in the Capitol."

As cafeterias go, it's not that bad.


Editorial: About that free lunch

State Senate dines at taxpayers' expense

Take this bullet train. Please.

--Robert Greene

Photo: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg outside then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office during a 2009 budget battle. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


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