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bera.jpgRep. Ami Bera said today that he is donating to charity a percentage of his salary equal to the across-the-board, federal budget cuts that took effect this month.

Bera's pledge comes as the Elk Grove Democrat -- and other incumbent politicians of both parties -- continue to take criticism over the sequester's $85 billion in mandatory budget cuts.

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

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

"The message to my colleagues in Congress is, if we're going to ask everyone else to tighten their belts, we have to tighten our belts first," Bera said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has put up online advertisements claiming Bera was among lawmakers culpable for allowing the sequester to take effect, a claim repeated by an NRCC spokeswoman in an email today.

Though Congress members' salaries are not affected by the sequester, the 8.2 percent figure is in line with what members of Congress have been told to reduce their office budgets.

The amount is slightly less than the 8.4 percent calculated by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. Duckworth said before the sequester took effect that she would return 8.4 percent of her salary to the U.S. Treasury each month.

Bera said he opted to donate his money instead of returning it to help programs affected by federal budget cuts. He said he does not plan to claim the contributions as charitable donations for tax purposes.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ami Bera at a press conference in 2012. Lezlie Sterling / Sacramento Bee



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