10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Riverside County supervisors narrowly voted this week to maintain their team of Sacramento lobbyists, rebuffing Supervisor Jeff Stone’s effort to slash the contracts.

The county uses three lobbying firms in the state Capitol and is on pace this year to spend more than $385,000 on the services.

But in the wake of a state law that strips cities of vehicle license fee revenue, Stone sought to reduce the lobbyists to one firm.

“Where’s the beef?” Stone asked Tuesday. “Where are the results?”

The county’s three registered lobbying firms are: Michael Y. Corbett & Associates; Nielsen; Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni; and Cline-Duplissea.

The county also has a contract with a fourth company, California Strategies, but it does only consulting work. According to a report before supervisors, the county will allow that firm’s contract to expire in December.

Stone suggested a $300,000 cap on spending for lobbyists. “We need to show some fiscal prudence,” he said.

Supervisor Bob Buster agreed.

But in a 3-2 vote, supervisors John Tavaglione, John Benoit and Marion Ashley approved retaining the three firms.

Tavaglione said the firms have helped the county.

“They are all worth their weight in gold,” he said. “I think we are getting a great bang for our buck.”

He said he doesn’t know how any lobbyists could get things accomplished given the partisan gridlock in Sacramento.

Benoit, a former assemblyman and state senator, said the firms are the county’s sole representation in Sacramento. The county does not have internal staff assigned to legislative affairs, he said.

Ashley said the situation in Sacramento requires the work. “We need representation, lobbyists, now more than ever,” he said.

Stone said he was not blaming the lobbyists themselves but questioned whether the expenditure was proper, given that even with expert lobbyists, the county has to deal with unfavorable legislation.

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