Monday Mar 31 2008
Candidates court voters at lunch
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Ose, McClintock clash over per diem pay at gathering hosted by Soroptimist Club
State Sen. Tom McClintock is characterizing accusations by 4th Congressional District opponent Doug Ose that he's double-dipping in his treatment of the $170-per-day legislator allowance as a phony issue. Ose, a former 3rd District congressman, questioned McClintock's tax-free per diem remuneration during an appearance by primary election candidates at a meeting Monday of the Soroptimist International of Auburn club. Ose said that he never took per diem payments during his six years in Congress while McClintock is unnecessarily collecting per diem money from the state tax free, without any receipts whatsoever. McClintock collected $36,000 in per diem housing allowance last year. Legislators are provided with the per diem payment for the costs of maintaining a second residence in the Sacramento metropolitan area during legislative sessions. Over 12 years in the Legislature, McClintock has been paid $306,000. Legislators can collect $170 per-day tax-free while the state Legislature is in session. McClintock's legal residence is in a family home in Thousand Oaks, where his mother lives. He resides with his wife and two children in an Elk Grove home, about 10 miles from Sacramento. McClintock said Monday that he returned to his district in the Ventura County area for 36 days last year, plus two more weeks for time unrelated to his legislative duties. McClintock said that with his district 400 miles away, he maintains his residence in Elk Grove to keep from dividing his family. Dozens of legislators have done what I've done to keep their families together, McClintock said. During his address to the Soroptimists, McClintock indicated that his family had been living in the Sacramento area longer than the past dozen years, noting that he had lived in Rocklin from 1993 to 1996. He also noted that his wife has a job in Elk Grove as a church secretary. In a phone interview before the Soroptimist lunch meeting, Ose was critical of McClintock's acceptance of the per diem, which is tax free if the home is more than 50 miles from the Capitol “ but subject to federal and state income tax if it is closer. At the same time, McClintock is writing off the interest on his tax form for the Elk Grove residence, Ose said. McClintock confirmed that he was claiming the interest but that his tax form was filed from Thousand Oaks. He can't have two principal places of residence and be reimbursed for expenses, Ose said. It puts the lie to his claims of fiscal conservatism. He's double dipping. McClintock didn't address the issue during Monday's appearance but said afterward that the per diem allowance offsets the costs of maintaining two residences. (Ose's) is an utterly unique interpretation not backed by a single regulatory citation, McClintock said. The subject of McClintock's per diem housing allowance was recently featured in a Los Angeles Times article and a San Diego Union Tribune editorial. The Union Tribune editorial said that while McClintock's acceptance of the subsidy is within the rules, a change of rules is in order. Especially in this tough budget climate, let's have them conform to a common-sense understanding of where a legislator's residence is and whether he or she has the expense of maintaining two homes, the editorial said. Attendees at the luncheon were attentive to the per diem question broached by Ose. All I know is what I heard today, said Kay Whitaker, a Soroptimist district director speaking for herself only. I would want to look at that issue with an open eye. Kelly Fulfer, another Soroptimist member speaking as an individual, said that she could look to her own experience. I'm being paid to do a job and I don't get paid to drive to work, Fulfer said. Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for 4th District Democratic Party candidate Charlie Brown, said the per diem wrangle illustrates the contrast of this race “ career politicians who say one thing and do another, which both Ose and McClintock are guilty of. Brown, conversely, is doing something to solve problems now and not running around talking about them until the next election, he added. It's the career politicians approach vs. the battle-tested leader approach, Stenhouse said. Actions speak louder than words. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.