By Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Californians don’t trust state government. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California reveals that only 6 percent of voters believe that government does not waste much money. You read correctly – only 6 percent have confidence that tax revenue is being spent wisely.
Of course the entrenched political class based in Sacramento would have you believe that state government always operates with integrity — even though currently three state Senators are on leave because of criminal conduct ranging from perjury to taking bribes and gun running – and makes efficient use of every taxpayer dollar. The problem, they say, is not the conduct of bureaucrats and politicians, it is that taxpayer advocate curmudgeons, like this writer, are constantly finding fault and exaggerating minor mistakes.
Okay, let’s take a closer look at government efficiency, honesty and accountability based on headline stories from just the last week or so. And while doing so, let’s try to keep in mind Napoleon’s words, “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
Certainly the following scandal chronicled by Emily Bazar of the Center for Health Reporting can be ascribed to incompetence. Nearly 1 million Californians are stuck in a backlog of Medi-Cal applications. When enrollment began last October, after California expanded coverage under Obamacare, those who might be eligible were told to apply at the Covered California website, the state’s’ health insurance exchange.
As Bazar reports, the Covered California website, which cost $454 million and counting, couldn’t communicate with the county systems for months. The website also had programming defects that caused applications to be wrongly denied and put on hold.
Is it too much to suggest that this treatment of low income Californians, some of whom are getting sick as they wait for coverage, is beginning to make Medi-Cal look like the Veterans Administration that is under fire for delaying care for critically ill vets?
But wait, as infomercials like to trumpet, there’s more!
Writing in the Sacramento Bee, describes featherbedding by the California Department of Transportation. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) concludes, that the governor’s proposed budget “would result in the program being overstaffed by about 3,500 full-time equivalents beginning in 2014-15 at a cost of more than $500 million.” To address the surplus worker problem, lawmakers approved a minuscule 195-position cut and then “added back in almost exactly that number of positions to develop a $1 billion ‘shelf’ of projects to be built if and when there’s money to build them.” Bottom line for taxpayers, no change in the status quo.
Perhaps this is where Napoleon’s words quoted above should be reexamined in light of what Einstein is said to have added, “but don’t rule out malice.”
But wait, there is still more.
An investigation by the Sacramento Bee reveals that California state departments have been padding their budgets by taking money for unfilled employee positions. While the law requires that the agencies lose the money if a position goes vacant for more than six months, officials have been able to game the system by transferring employees in and out before the deadline, thus avoiding a cut to their budget. While lawmakers Just learning of this scam are publicly promising quick action to curtail a practice that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars annually, few are holding their breath in anticipation of a prompt resolution.
These examples of waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars come from recent headlines, and it would not be imprudent to suspect they are just the tip of the iceberg. Is it any wonder that Californians don’t trust state government?
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.