State Wasted $18.9 Billion in Just 10 Years Due to Lax Oversight

Teresa Casazza
President of the California Taxpayers’ Association

California’s state government squandered $18.9 billion over the past 10 years due to government waste, fraud and mismanagement, and this abuse of tax dollars will continue unless our elected officials get serious about their oversight of our tax dollars.

The $18.9 billion figure comes from a new California Taxpayers’ Association Research Bulletin, “A Decade of Waste, Fraud and Mismanagement,” which is based on the media’s investigative reporting, government audits, court documents and other sources of information.

Some examples:

  • Last year, the California Department of Corrections paid $1.3 million for unemployment benefits for employees who had been fired, and spent $580,000 to rent office space that was left vacant for four years.
  • The state auditor found that more than 400 state workers were improperly receiving free parking, costing the taxpayers $2.1 million.
  • The Department of Health Services made $2.5 million worth of erroneous payments to pharmacies, and also paid $1.2 million more than it should have in Medi-Cal claims for wheelchairs and other medical equipment.
  • State Auditor Elaine Howle reported that the San Francisco Bay Bridge was $3.2 billion over budget as of December 2004, due to the Department of Transportation’s mismanagement.

All totaled, our report includes 127 specific examples – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There were another 138 cases of waste that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents, so they were not included in the report. Also, the report covers state government waste only, and does not touch upon federal and local government waste that takes additional money out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

The state needs to actively address the many problems pointed out by auditors and investigative reporters, because every penny of waste that is stopped is a penny of revenue that can pay for education, public safety, improved roads and other government services that taxpayers expect.

The alternative is to keep ignoring the problems, and to allow wasteful spending to continue through boom and bust years alike, increasing the pressure for higher taxes and causing the public to distrust their government.

Tightening the control of tax dollars will pay huge dividends in the long term, and is imperative if the state is to regain its financial footing.


Teresa Casazza is president of the California Taxpayers’ Association, a non-partisan, non-profit organization formed in 1926 to oppose unnecessary taxes and to advocate for government efficiency. Cal-Tax is online at www.caltax.org.

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