Acosta among top spenders of Assembly-allocated budget

Assemblyman Dante Acosta speaks about this new bill that would support foster children at a press conference at College of the Canyons on Friday, May 12, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The office of Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, had the highest total expenditures out of all the California Assembly members’ offices this year, according to state documents.

Acosta’s total expenditures were $677,605, with the most money spent on communications, at $295,933, and staff salaries, with $275,788.

The Assembly incumbents with the next highest total expenditures were: Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who spent $674,357; Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, who totaled at $596,996; Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, who spent $586,697; and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo, who spent $505,521.

Acosta, Baker, Cunningham and Lackey are all in highly contested swing districts for the Nov. 6 election. Dahle is the Assembly Republican party leader.

All Assembly members’ individual legislative budgets are set by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office and individual party caucuses. Individual budget allocations are not set by Acosta’s office, said Acosta spokesman David Creager.

Leadership of the Republican and Democratic caucuses determine some of the budgeting for their individual Assembly members, and at any time, the speaker’s office can overrule certain budget expenditures, as well.

“Our office is given a budget to work with, and we prioritize two goals,” Creager said. “To make sure all residents of the 38th district know what is happening with their state government, and to make available to constituents a wonderful staff who works hard to help folks get results from the state. Daily we solve problems with the DMV, tax agencies, and help folks receive the benefits that they deserve.”

Some allocated budget areas, such as individual Assembly office staff salaries, are vetted by and approved by the Assembly Rules Committee, a bipartisan committee of Assembly members appointed by the speaker’s office, before going into effect, Creager said.

“It is true that we spent that total,” he said. “It’s all publicly available information.”

Certain expenditures such as mailers are also individually approved by the Rules Committee, which vets each piece for language, Creager said.  

According to state records, Acosta spent $295,933 on such mailers, which he said was to ensure constituents would hear from him.

“That is why we have held numerous town halls, community coffees, and other public libraries events,” he said. “Much of our mail communication budget goes to invite residents to attend and speak their mind. Other mail is informational and solicits feedback on key state policies of unique interest to our community.”

Christy Smith, Acosta’s opponent in the 38th Assembly District race, said she disapproved of the content of Acosta’s state-funded mailers.

“My opponent Dante Acosta is simply trying to run from the fact that he spent more than any other member of the state Assembly on constituent mail,” she said. “The mail was aimed at voters and sent out right up to the legally allowed deadline. Many of the postcards were meaningless and served no other purpose than to put his name in front of voters ahead of this election. That’s a waste of taxpayer resources.”

Acosta said that Smith was not properly informed on how the assemblyman’s budget was set.

“Christy Smith’s problem is not with my office,” he said. “It is with her friend, the speaker of the Assembly who sets the budget my office receives, who is simultaneously dumping millions of dollars in dark money into her race to misrepresent my record and positions.”


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