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Freshman congressman Ami Bera makes a statement with donations

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Ami Bera

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 6:13 am

 haRep. Ami Bera pledged to give 8.2 percent of his monthly pay to organizations in his Sacramento County district that are feeling the impact of the across-the-board spending cuts of the sequester.

Bera, D-Elk Grove, said that he is donating a percentage of his salary equal to the federal budget cuts that took effect in March. His district includes the town of Herald.

As Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a budget solution this year, Congress enacted a sequester that triggered 8.2 percent in cuts to the federal budget. The cuts total $85 billion.

Bera said in a news release that he will donate 8.2 percent of his salary, or $1,189, to a different charity each month through September, the end of the fiscal year. His first contribution in March was to a Meals on Wheels program in Sacramento County. Bera spokeswoman Allison Teixeira said on Tuesday that Bera won’t make a decision on a charity for April until later in the month.

He said he decided last week to donate a percentage of his salary after reading a story about the Meals on Wheels program in The Sacramento Bee.

Bera said sequestration is a “dumb way to do business,” but that elected officials should share in the pain.

Bera said he opted to donate his money instead of returning it to the U.S. Treasury to help programs affected by the cuts.

Bera isn’t the only member of Congress cutting his budget.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, whose district includes the Lodi area and Galt, voted three times against pay increases for members of Congress, even cost-of-living raises, according to spokeswoman Lauren Smith.

McNerney, along with his congressional colleagues, voted to reduce their office budgets by 19 percent. The office budget goes toward operating expenses, communication with constituents, staff salaries and other items, Smith said. The operating budget was cut through a series of three votes from $1,551,504 in January 2011 to $1,262,230 in March 2013, Smith said.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, shifted some of his staff from full-time to part-time status, and chose to have one district office instead of the typical two offices, according to Denham spokeswoman Amanda Maddox.

Denham has repeatedly voted for House operating budget cuts while ensuring that the House maintains the resources that members need to best represent their constituents, Maddox said.

“Congressional salaries are a drop in the bucket,” Maddox said. “He thinks it’s good to look at the bigger picture. He sees waste in our agencies.”

Denham’s congressional district includes Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County.

Lodi’s Tony Amador, chairman of the San Joaquin County Republican Central Committee, says that the spirit of Bera contributing 8.2 percent of his salary to charities affected by the sequester is good, but Amador sees a possible ulterior motive.

Bera went through a grueling campaign to narrowly beat Republican incumbent Dan Lungren in the November election, and Republicans will heavily target Bera’s seat again, Amador said. That may be why Bera is contributing a portion of his salary and why he contributes to other charities, Amador said.

“The fact that he’s doing it is a good thing,” Amador said. “He gives to charities throughout Elk Grove. (Bera) wants to make sure that everybody loves Ami Bera.”

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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