Government watchdogs have called for increased oversight of a state Assembly "slush fund," which has dispensed more than $73 million since December 2009, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles News Group.
California Common Cause said rules governing the fund, which is contained in the Assembly operating budget, are "vague and ambiguous." The state government watchdog harshly criticized transfers of money from the fund to various state agencies without an Assembly vote.
The Assembly operating budget, which varies from year to year, was $146.7 million in 2011-12 and $149.4 in 2009-10. Yet the Assembly only spent $113 million in 2009-10 (final figures are not yet available for 2011-12). That is how the body obtains its surplus, according to a 2011 signed court declaration by Gus Demas, then fiscal officer for the Assembly Rules Committee.
Assembly leaders said they don't have to vote on how the fund money is spent since it is allocated to the operating budget, which is controlled by Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.
"The budget was approved for Assembly operations, not for the Assembly to support state programs without debate," said Phillip Ung, Common Cause policy advocate.
Much of the money goes to projects that are "pet issues for leaders of the Assembly," Ung said.