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Gatto says frustration led to his comments

June 24, 2011|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said Friday he regrets comments he made earlier in the week equating state Controller John Chiang’s decision to freeze lawmakers’ pay during the ongoing budget stalemate to creating a “Banana Republic.”

Gatto also caught heat for saying that because of the pay suspension, he would “have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won't be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense.”

Chiang invoked a voter-approved initiative to revoke the pay of lawmakers for every day a budget was late after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the budget passed by Democrats on June 15.

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On Friday, Gatto said he made the comments out of frustration with the budget process, which has dragged on for months without resolution.

“I realize my statement came across terribly, and I ought to admit it publicly,” Gatto said. “I was frustrated. All elected officials need to come together to solve the vast problems facing the state. I was very frustrated and I let that frustration show.”

Brown is still seeking to negotiate a budget deal with Republicans who have balked at his insistence that temporary income, sales and vehicle tax hikes imposed in 2009 be extended until November, when voters can weigh in on a five-year extension of the taxes. The current tax rates are set to expire on July 1.

Gatto said he still believes Chiang was in the wrong.

“This has never been about pay,” Gatto said. “This is about the principle of an executive branch official appointing himself to withhold the pay of the Legislature until they do something he wants.”

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Prosecutors have closed inquiries into whether Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and his campaign rival Sunder Ramani lived where they claimed to live during the 2010 Assembly race, settling the last of the dust raised during that stormy campaign.

David Demerjian, head of the public integrity unit of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, said both cases were closed May 12. The decision came months after the Fair Political Practices Commission wrapped up probes of alleged campaign finance violations against both candidates, and after the county registrar of voters looked into allegations by Republican Party officials of voter fraud in the 43rd Assembly District.

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