State Spent $75M in the Midst of Budget Crisis

February 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A new audit shows California taxpayers picked-up the tab last year for tens of millions of dollars worth of new cars, desks, and trips for state employees. That might seem outrageous under the best of circumstances, but critics say it is practically criminal, when you consider the budget crisis the state is facing these days. Now, ABC7 takes a look at who spent the most.

There was money spent on new vehicles, new office furniture, and trips to conferences. A new Assembly audit shows the state spent $75 million on those things last year, despite a budget crisis that nearly sent California into bankruptcy and an order from Governor Schwarzenegger to cut back spending.

"Every dollar that is spent on stuff is not being spent to help people and that's wrong. There's just no excuse for it," says Assembly member Hector De La Torre, D-Los Angeles County.

Caltrans spent the most on purchasing vehicles -- the total was $10.4 million. DMV topped the list of furniture buyers with $1.7 million. The Department of Education doled out $945,000 for conferences and off-site meetings.

All that spending happened while state agencies were furloughing workers three days a month without pay and paying bills with IOUs, public schools made do without new textbooks, and social services for the poor were severely reduced.

"It does make you angry," says Patricia Pile.

Pile saw her 90-year-old mother's adult health day care slashed from five days a week to two and she is outraged.

"And now I saw her being pushed by the way side as if she were not important. That is not acceptable," says Pile.

ABC7 called every major spender listed on the port and nobody had anything to say and referred all calls to the governor's office.

The Schwarzenegger administration is reviewing the findings.

"The governor always welcomes these types of audits. We always want to look internally in government and see how we can spend taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible," says Rachel Arrezola, the governor's spokesman.

Assemblyman De La Torre begins hearings this week to see if more control would help curtail spending; he thinks too many managers have approval authority.