|Experienced Sacramento watchers told me that I was going against a very powerful public employee union with SBX1-9. I am persistently being told that the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union runs Caltrans.
Ray Flores, President of PECG, wrote a response to my latest Orange County Register op-ed, "Caltrans needs to go on a staffing diet." In his response, there are several misleading statements.
PECG STATEMENT: “It is more than a little surprising that an Orange County Republican legislator would author a bill that would eliminate competitive bidding and mandate the waste of taxpayer funds.”
FACT: SBX1-9 does not address the topic of competitive bidding. Instead, it addresses the breadth of contracting opportunities, stops one-time funds from being used to hire long-term employees, and increases the percentage of work to be contracted out.
PECG STATEMENT: “This year’s state budget shows that, when Caltrans outsources an engineering job for a year, it costs $237,000. Having the same work performed by an engineer employed by and loyal to the public costs $116,000.”
FACT: In the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee analysis, it states, “COS (Capital Outlay Staff) staff cost $158,000 per year while contract staff cost $243,000.” This is consistent with a 2011 Senate Budget analysis which further acknowledges that better contracting could get the cost down to $209,000. That number does not include additional overtime calculations in full-time employees totaling $96,000 a year.
We also found a comprehensive study, which puts the numbers much closer together, with an in-house engineer’s compensation ranging from $173,434 to $209,212, and an outside engineer averaging at $193,000. Both the LAO Report and the State Auditor call out Caltrans for their poor data and PECG, not knowing the salary of their own members, shows how much Caltrans is in need of accountability.
PECG STATEMENT: “Why does it cost so much more to outsource the work? One reason is that the contracts are not competitively bid. Construction contracts are awarded to the qualified firm with the lowest cost to the taxpayer. However, engineering services contracts, such as design and inspection, are outsourced without competitive bidding. The agency can pick whatever contractor it wants, regardless of cost. No wonder it costs twice as much!”
FACT: For Architectural and Engineering contracts, Caltrans is required to:
- Make a public announcement requesting Statements of Qualification and Performance Data;
- Establish criteria to comprise the basis for the selection of a firm for each project;
- Estimate the value of services;
- Issue a public announcement for Requests of Qualification;
- Conduct a selection process during which firms are evaluated, discussions must be held with at least three firms, and from the firms with which discussions are held, the Director shall select no less than three, in order of preference, based upon the established criteria, that are deemed to be the most highly qualified to provide the services;
- The Director shall attempt to negotiate a contract with the most highly qualified firm.
It appears that there is at least a decent qualifying process for bids, but if there are problems with the Caltrans bidding process, I am happy to author a bill to address it.
While I’m glad to receive PECG’s attention, unsubstantiated data and a complete lack of familiarity with the contracting process is a pretty weak response.
The problem is obvious. Before the legislature imposes an increase of fees and taxes on Californians, we must improve Caltrans.
Flexibility over contracting is a REASONABLE APPROACH to fixing our roads and saving money.