MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Fireworks — July 4, 2017

The best part about doing an editorial submission is that maybe, just maybe, someone will respond and do their best to rebut.

Well, my recent Sacramento Bee submission generated a response (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Boondoggles — June 28, 2017 june 28, 2017 john moorlach). It’s provided below.

I cited a recent study that showed that outsourcing architects and engineers was actually less costly than hiring and putting them on the state’s payroll. Did the Secretary of Transportation respond? No. Did the Director of Caltrans respond? No. Did an architect or engineer within the bowels of Caltrans respond? No.

Who responded? A representative of the very union that actually runs Caltrans, the Professional Engineers in California Government. Repeat with me: "Who’s your Daddy!?!" See MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — July 1, 2017 july 1, 2017 john moorlach.

And, as one would expect, he probably did not read the report, as he failed to include the costs of housing these underemployed engineers. Maybe he should go into the private sector, and be a "greedy contractor," and see how difficult it really is to achieve a positive bottom line. And do it month after month and be the one who has to forgo the paycheck in order to pay the help during economic downturns. And, then appreciate the gut check when someone has the audacity to tell him that he is overpaid.

Then maybe, just maybe, he’ll appreciate what the greedy business owners have to endure in order to pay the personal income taxes that underwrite the nonsense called the California Department of Transportation.

I don’t mean to pick on Caltrans, but when one of its retirees tells me that its dedicated employees struggle to fill an eight-hour day, you just want to scream. So they golf and who knows what else (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Fairways — August 28, 2015 august 28, 2015 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Going Golfing — August 29, 2015 august 29, 2015 john moorlach). It makes one wonder who is really gorging on taxpayer dollars.

OK, that’s enough editorial fireworks for this special day. Enjoy some real ones with your family and friends. Happy Fourth of July!


Don’t waste highway money on greedy private contractors


Special to The Bee

It has been more than two decades – and thousands of miles of crumbling roads and scores of decaying bridges – since California has had enough money to keep up with its highway needs.

Relief is finally on the way in November. But as one of state Sen. John Moorlach’s latest failed bills proved, where there’s money, there’s greed. And as usual, the argument to privately profit at taxpayer expense is shrouded in unwarranted criticism of dedicated public servants (“Stop ignoring Caltrans waste,” Viewpoints, June 28).

Moorlach proposed giving half of the engineering work on California’s highways to private firms through no-bid contracts. He cited phony figures – ginned up from the same private companies that want to gorge themselves on tax dollars – to try to justify his false assertion that it would be cheaper for taxpayers.

In reality, a state engineer’s pay and benefits cost $122,000 a year, less than half the $246,000 for a contract engineer to do the same work, as noted in the state budget.

The state has nearly 1,000 contract engineers doing work that Caltrans employees can perform at half the cost. Over a year, the difference is a whopping $100 million, enough to repair the Pioneer Bridge between Sacramento and West Sacramento five or six times with money left over.

Other states have seen the same thing. New Orleans decided last year to hire engineers rather than outsource the design work for $2 billion in street projects because contracting would be twice as expensive. A 2016 audit found Utah’s transportation department was paying contractors triple the cost of state engineers.

Why does this happen? In California, state law allows engineering contracts to be awarded without competitive bids. Polls show that 80 percent of taxpayers support competitive bidding. Lawmakers were wise to reject Moorlach’s proposal.

As California prepares to fix our transportation system, let’s not waste public money by overpaying private companies. California is best served when a publicly employed professional engineer designs and inspects infrastructure projects.

Bruce Blanning is executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government. He can be contacted at blanning.


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