MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Boondoggles — June 28, 2017

This year’s budget process has been very enlightening, educational and enraging. In a recent Budget and Fiscal Review Committee meeting we discussed AB 123 (SB 108). Inside this budget trailer bill is a small clause.

Here’s what the Senate Caucus Staff Briefing provided:

"It adds a provision to specify that Caltrans Capital Outlay Support program resources (related to SB 1 car and gas tax programs) that are authorized by other provisions must maintain the 90/10 ratio of state staff resources/external consultant and professional services contracts."

I asked for clarification and then I lost my cool. You can see it, and the head nodding, at https://youtu.be/hg-C_hsdocI. An abbreviated version, suitable for social media purposes, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICWXbCyiSD8. When the bill came to the Senate Floor, I repeated my concerns,see https://youtu.be/Cfo-PjjiBmE. I am so frustrated that one particular public employee union can dictate how a state department is run.

You’ve heard enough from me on SB 1 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Not Amused — April 17, 2017 april 17, 2017 john moorlach). But, I provided a solution to oppose the 90/10 ration nonsense in my first few months up here in Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SBX1-9 — July 18, 2015 july 18, 2015 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Cost of Engineers — August 26, 2015 august 26, 2015 john moorlach).

Memorializing an outdated and overly expensive management policy, when our state has the worst balance sheet in the nation, is unconscionable. So, I provided a submission to the Sacramento Bee, which is provided below. Sometimes, you’ve just got to remind the Capitol that we can and must do better. We’ve got to quit making excuses and rationalizing sloppy management.

Legislature ignores Caltrans boondoggles as taxpayers suffer

BY JOHN MOORLACH

Special to The Bee
http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article158456884.html

The California Legislature is obsessing over relatively minor problems with the state Board of Equalization while ignoring Caltrans boondoggles costing taxpayers billions of dollars. At the same time, in November drivers will be run over by a $5.2 billion a year tax increase.

The Professional Engineers in California Government union has been salivating to fill vacancies at Caltrans and add 400 to 500 positions in the next fiscal year.

But in May 2014, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that Caltrans was overstaffed by 3,500 engineers, costing more than $500 million a year. A year later, the state auditor found abuses at Caltrans that included one employee playing golf for 55 days, as his supervisors approved his time sheets.

In response to the LAO’s report, I wrote Senate Bill X1-9 to bring Caltrans into parity with transportation agencies in most other states, eventually requiring it to contract out 50 percent of architectural and engineering services. Not only did the engineers’ union kill that bill, but it wants more.

But a 2016 study for the American Council of Engineering Companies found that contracting out highway construction brings significant savings to taxpayers. The cost for one year of employing a public design team member was $349,734, compared to just $262,866 for one in a private firm. Potential savings: $86,868 per employee. So if 500 new positions are filled, hiring private contractors would save $43.4 million a year. And combining the study with the 3,500 in “overstaffing” found by the LAO and that’s $1.22 billion wasted.

To clean up the hurried budget compromise, on June 20 the Senate Budget Committee debated a trailer bill that caps Caltrans’ contracting out at 10 percent for another year, protecting the governor’s union buddies with no concern for efficiency. When I asked the Finance Department why we persist in this nonsense, the answer was: It has always been done this way.

It’s a case of union power versus the needs of the people of the state. The $5.2 billion yearly tax increase is an invitation to more union spending and subsidized golf outings.

John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, represents the state’s 37th Senate district. He can be contacted at senator.moorlach.

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