Unprecedented Senate Hearing Exposes Caltrans for Mismanagement and Lack of Budget Transparency

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

“Data is poor or inflated that the Department is using in their zero-based budgeting.”
– Legislative Analyst’s Office
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“The overarching numbers given by Caltrans are not supported by data.”
– Legislative Analyst’s Office
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“There are problems getting data, and that has to be fixed.”
– Senator Jim Beall D-San Jose

(Sacramento, CA) – In a rigorous discussion today during the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Development over Senator Moorlach’s SBX1-9 (Responsible Contracting for Caltrans), the discussion quickly shifted focus to Caltrans’ lack of transparency, poor budgeting and mismanagement of funds.

Trained as a Certified Public Accountant, Senator Moorlach pointed out, “We’re generating among the highest revenues for our roads, and yet have some of the nation’s worst road conditions.  This and other available data indicates a very clear and pressing need for oversight and reform at the California Department of Transportation.”

Jessica Peters, Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst with the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) said, “Data is poor or inflated that the Department is using in their zero-based budgeting.” Peters later testified that, “the overarching numbers given by Caltrans are not supported by data,” and Peters indicated Caltrans does not  actually have a an adequate data collection system.

Several Senators on the committee expressed their frustration at the lack of data and transparency, including committee chair, Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who declared, “There are problems getting data, and that has to be fixed.”

In response to SBX1-9, which highlights an LAO audit finding that Caltrans is overstaffed in its planning and engineering staff by roughly 3,500 employees, costing taxpayers approximately half a billion dollars a year, Ted Toppin of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) stated, “There is not  overstaffing in the department” (VIDEO of statement HERE).

However, Toppin failed to provide hard data to substantiate this claim. The non-partisan LAO challenged Toppin with findings from their review of Caltrans, pointing out that, after accounting for vacant positions and other attrition, they believe Caltrans to currently be overstaffed by 3,300 employees, as they have reduced their workforce by only 178 positions in the past year.

Senator Moorlach then presented a long list of troubling economic data regarding Caltrans. Toppin responded by saying that the Senator’s data “made no sense to me whatsoever.”

Senator Moorlach concluded by stating, “The Caltrans union failed to address the most basic question, which is why Californians pay the most, but get the least for their road money. And they never directly answered the question about being overstaffed by 3,500 positions.”

“Another problem, and again a sign of needed reform, is that it has been very difficult to get accurate data from Caltrans,” continued Senator Moorlach.  “If Caltrans will be more forthcoming with the data, then we can begin to understand where the needs are.”

Video clips of the hearing will be posted, as they become available, on Senator Moorlach’s YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjMDeyoFbh-TcQiWCTvCEug