Since California has finished out their legislative session for the year, now is a great time to examine how legislators spent your hard-earned tax dollars. While some funds have been allocated to worthwhile causes, there are obviously notable exceptions that should be brought to the public’s attention.
On the positive side, the state voted to impose a fee on each telephone line to help digitize the state’s 911 system. This is a critical change that will help bring California’s emergency response system into the 21st century and undoubtedly save lives.
Elected officials also allocated resources for various disaster‑related purposes, like improving fire and other emergency response and communications systems. In addition, this year they expanded the earned income tax credit (EITC) to let hard-working Californians keep more of their paycheck.
Unfortunately, not every funding decision made this year will deliver on the results that Californians expect.
One example: since 2013, California’s elected officials have allocated nearly $11 million to the Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB), but a recent New York Times article exposes the board of directors as “virtually moribund; it has not met in public since January. For most of the year, it has lacked a quorum.”
Despite an increase in its budget this year, the ALRB has reduced its workload over the past several years, with a steep reduction in board meetings and hearings. When the ALRB got audited by the Department of Finance in 2014, they found “Workload data was incomplete, unavailable, or inaccurate for quantifying current resource utilization, as well as limiting the ability to forecast its future resource needs.” This is an organization that should not be receiving millions of dollars from hardworking taxpayers.
Interestingly, the ALRB was created by a law pushed for by the United Farm Workers union, which was led by Dolores Huerta. Huerta then created the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which received $2 million tax dollars in the latest state budget.
The money is ostensibly to be used to increase “civic engagement” among the youth, but Huerta’s long history of liberal activism and partisan backed agendas leads no doubt as to the type of candidates and ideologies the Huerta Foundation promotes.
While anyone is, and of course should be, free to pursue whatever agenda they want and speak out accordingly, tax dollars should not be used to fund explicitly partisan political organizing—of any sort.
These may seem like small examples of state government waste, but they quickly add up. And there are plenty of big examples as well.
Earlier this year, California Governor Newsom announced that the state would be drastically scaling back its light speed rail project because “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.” While Governor Newsom made the right decision, the project is already billions of dollars over budget.
How our elected officials use our tax dollars affects every aspect of our lives, and the decisions they make have a lasting impact, whether it is adding to the debt that our kids will be forced to address or creating positive programs that change lives. While California made some smart fiscal decisions this year, every dollar that goes towards a wasteful or unnecessary program takes money away from families across the state. Hopefully next year our elected officials won’t make some of the same fiscal mistakes as they did this year.
Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a public policy advocacy organization that promotes liberty, opportunity, and prosperity for all Americans.