Hidden Park Funds, Bullet Trains, and Legislative Pay Raises in Sunny California

While the governor and legislature moved to cut $22-million from California’s state parks and park advocates scrambled to raise private funds to keep parks open, the state parks department was sitting on hidden revenues of $54 million dollars.

Another day, another story of mismanagement of our tax money — and Sacramento political leaders say we must trust them with more of our tax dollars.

While the budget cuts $254 million from higher education, the governor gleefully signs a bill to spend $381 million a year on a bullet train construction that has a doubtful future and which most voters tell pollsters they don’t want.

With deep budget cuts and trimming the pay of some state workers, more than 1,000 legislative staffers receive a pay raise.

The case for the tax increase ballot measures gets murkier by the day.

In the most recent disgrace in the way the state government is minding our tax dollars, it was disclosed Friday that the Department of State Parks had a total of $54 million dollars sitting in two set-aside funds—the Parks and Recreation Fund and the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.

These funds have existed for years while the parks were cut millions and threatened with closures; and even when enough voters signed petitions to put on the 2010 ballot a vehicle license tax dedicated to parks. That measure, Prop 21, was defeated.

How was so much money overlooked? Is this case an aberration or are there similar circumstances with other special funds?

Interestingly, revealed in the news report by Matt Weiser and Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee the Department of Finance compares General Fund numbers from state departments with figures from the Controller’s Office that pays state bills. It was reported no such comparison is made of the 560 special funds that generate revenues from dedicated sources.

The Controller’s Office jumped into the dispute criticizing the Department of Finance. As Controller Office spokesperson, Hallye Jordan, is quoted in the news article, “The numbers in our report are actual. If Finance did not look at the actual numbers and relied on other numbers in building their budgets, the question should be asked of Finance. We don’t help Finance build budgets.”

The whole affair begs three questions. Why does the state require so many special funds to operate? Why are not the special funds numbers compared to see where they stand?

Most importantly, for voters come this November, why trust Sacramento with more tax dollars?

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)