MOORLACH UPDATE — Pricey Labor — September 7, 2015

Wishing you a relaxing Labor Day. I’m resting up for the final four long days of Floor Session.

The OC Register’s Opinion page is very kind to me. Their second editorial addresses the tough life some of the State’s laborers face (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Going Golfing — August 29, 2015 John Moorlach). It’s the first piece below. The second of two letters to the editor was also affirming on the subject, and it is the second piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Fairways — August 28, 2015 John Moorlach).

Along

with the conclusion of the regular session on September 11th, there are also two special sessions, which may go on as long as the legislature decides they are needed. I’m sure my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will want to have them all conclude by Friday. This very likely means votes on tax increases are imminent.

Before we vote on a transportation tax, let’s look at what I am convinced is really happening. A look at the last eleven years of Caltrans’ budgets finds that the average annual spending has been $10,637,385,000. For the 2015-16 budget that Gov. Brown just signed, the amount money dedicated to Caltrans is $10,502,341,000. The party in control of California has been flat-lining transportation for nearly a dozen years!

Where has the money been going? Your roads and highways have been suffering because the necessary funding has gone to pay for ever increasing pension contributions.

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The state’s annual contribution went up with the current budget by some $637 million, to about $4.9 billion.

I would say that the pothole tax is really a pension tax. The ever growing defined benefit pension plan contributions for the state’s employees has wiped out the resources to properly maintain the state’s roads. And the righteous indignation about the poor quality of our highways and byways is manipulating the public with a misdirection of the facts.

Blame public employee pension plans for the bad roads. Blame the Democrats for the bad roads. Blame Governor Gray Davis for the bad roads. But, don’t shame Republicans into voting for a tax to cover those who made poor decisions and focused on different priorities since SB 400 was signed into law back in 1999.

This should be an interesting week. The Governor will use his bad roads as the shiny object to cajole Republicans into voting for a regressive tax.

All I have to say is, "Governor, make some serious efforts to fix pensions and Caltrans, then come back to us with a sincere plan to fix our roads. Until then, I’m not buying the propaganda."

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Very pricey bad apples

Report: state workers behaving badly

A new report from the California State Auditor’s Office highlights a number of examples of state workers behaving badly.

The costliest “improper activities” occurred in the California Correctional Health Care Services agency, which cost the state more than $3.2 million by failing to seek competitive bids to upgrade the electrical infrastructure in state prisons, wasting state funds and “violating the state’s prohibition against advance payments.”

According to the report, “Correctional Health Care paid the contractor $3.2 million to do nothing more than process invoices of the subcontractor, who did all the work,” and “improperly paid the contractor $1.6 million in advance for goods and services that the subcontractor did not provide until about a year later.”

Correctional Health Care, along with the Department of Corrections, additionally overpaid three psychologists a total of $96,000 “for being on call or for returning after their shifts ended to perform additional duties.”

The Chula Vista Veterans’ Home spent $50,000 on equipment it has hardly used for five years, when it could have rented the equipment at a fraction of the cost.

The Department of Transportation featured prominently in the report. It cost the state nearly $883,000 when it failed to increase the rent of state lands leased by telecommunications companies in the Bay Area for more than two years. And one Caltrans engineer played golf for 55 workdays between August 2012 and March 2014.

“How can we ask Californians to pay more for road repair without fixing Caltrans?” state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, insisted in a statement. “We have no confidence that Caltrans is spending money properly. None.”

Several other investigations focused on employees who used state time and resources to advance side businesses, improperly help friends and family members with their unemployment insurance claims and for other personal reasons.

Though there are bound to be a few bad apples in any large organization, this is especially true for government agencies, which have much less incentive to police such behavior because it is taxpayers’ money – not their own, as it is with private businesses – on the line. This makes reducing the size of government and ensuring robust transparency and oversight from agencies like the State Auditor’s Office and the Legislative Analyst’s Office all the more important.

Keep eye on Caltrans

How fortunate taxpayers in Orange County are to have a legislator such as state Sen. John Moorlach, who is performing as he should. When the Caltrans audit was released Thursday, Sen. Moorlach actually read it. He discovered that employees were golfing on “company” time. They included the director of Caltrans, Malcolm Dougherty, who was scheduled to participate in a golf tournament at Dove Canyon Country Club last Monday. When questioned, Mr. Dougherty had the audacity to say no taxpayer money was involved in his tournament participation.

Does he not realize that Monday is a workday and that taxpayer money would pay his salary? Did he take a vacation day? I assume not since, when called on this, he decided not to participate. When will we hold our public employees accountable for their work ethics?

Andrea Krupka

Orange

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