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Boondoggles Bloat Government

Wednesday April 2nd, 2014   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 7:30am PDT   •  

CAHSRlogo_200California’s punitive tax structure virtually guarantees high volatility in state finances, particular during times of boom and bust in the economy. But through thick and thin some things never change. As this report notes, the state’s payroll and the size of the state workforce hold steady, and there’s always more to that story.

Consider, for example, California’s high-speed rail project, unpopular with Californians but a big hit with politicians. As the report notes, last year California’s High-Speed Rail Authority nearly tripled its staff to 116 employees and payroll soared from $2.5 million to almost $7 million. The budget provides for 60 more employees next year. The staff and payroll figures exclude “a variety of consultants,” who don’t work for a song.

The “bullet train” has yet to transport a single passenger at any speed. But the bullet train has already succeeded at bulking up government and giving politicians a new place to spend. Consider also Covered California, the state’s wholly-owned subsidiary of Obamacare.

It has almost 900 employees and a payroll of $22.8 million. Former state finance director Ana Matosantos is bagging $20,000 a month. Covered California is spending tens of millions on promotion and $80 million on television, radio and internet marketing. But on all counts actual performance remains lethargic, with numerous IT problems, and young people remain wary. But Covered California succeeds as a way to bulk up government and spend money.

The same is true for the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. It has yet to deliver the life-saving cures, therapies and ensuing royalties it promised voters in 2004. But CIRM pays its bosses whopper salaries in the $500,000 range and succeeds as a soft landing spot for washed up politicians.

The patterns are clear. What the people want is not the same as what government wants. Government usually promises more than it can deliver. Government agencies and programs keep getting bigger, regardless of performance. Even in a weak economy government will keep hiring and usually gives priority to ruling-class retreads.

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April 2014