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Big Four gets more done in Perata's office, Ackerman says

Maybe the Big Four - a.k.a. Quatro Formaggio - will strike a budget deal faster if party leaders convene in the Senate leader's office.

It's been nearly two weeks since the Legislature missed a constitutional deadline for approving a balanced budget, and the Budget Conference Committee has sat idle while waiting for party leaders to reach agreement on most outstanding issues. Republicans are demanding spending cuts, but Democrats aren't willing to sacrifice welfare for the poor. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suspects no deal will be reached by July 1.

Because the budget is being led by the Assembly this year, the Big Four has been holding most of its budget talks in Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez's office in the Capitol's north wing. But Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman says the group is more productive when they meet in Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's office on the south end.

Why? Booze, of course.

"We've been having most of the meetings in the Speaker's Office," Ackerman said Tuesday from his office above Perata's digs. "You get food, you get brownies, grapes and stuff. In Perata's office you get wine. You get better stuff in his office, and we get more stuff done down there."

Núñez's spokesman, Steve Maviglio, said budget talks were also held in the speaker's office last year when leaders reached an on-time deal. He said his boss has a cooler stocked with wine in his office.