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A Lesson in Waste-Watching

Tuesday March 8th, 2016   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 9:06am PST   •  

Big Sur Bixby_MLGovernment waste abounds in California but is not always easy to spot. Veteran observer Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee suggests a hard look at “overlapping and utterly confusing governmental entities that cloud accountability.” His first example is the California Coastal Commission, by some accounts the most powerful land-use body in the nation, and which we have covered of late. Walters has observed that the Coastal Commission has been “interjecting itself in water quality issues miles from the coastal zone,” and thereby “intruding on the state water quality board,” yet another government body.

In similar style, Walters finds it “almost impossible to figure out which state agency is truly commanding California’s crusade against carbon emissions.” The Air Resources Board supposedly takes the lead, but government bodies claiming a piece of the action include: the Public Utilities Commission, the Energy Commission and the Department of Transportation. This creates, “a confusing array of impacts on consumers.” And consumers are also taxpayers.

The state Board of Equalization, created in the 19th century to oversee property tax assessments, has now expanded its jurisdiction to sales and gasoline taxes. The state Franchise Tax Board grabs income tax but its appeals go to the Board of Equalization. And, says Walters, “several other state agencies also collect taxes.”

The Bee columnist wonders, “Why do we have elected county superintendents of schools, plus elected county boards of education?” And as he notes, the elected state schools superintendent, who manages the state Department of Education, is subject to the decrees of the State Board of Education, appointed by the governor. Walters wonders who is accountable for the success or failure of public education, and finds this “a question that could be applied to much of state government.” Whether at the state or federal level, money plus bureaucracy does not add up to accountability for taxpayers.

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March 2016