news 4 days ago

EDITORIAL: Newsom rightly ends costly arrangement for select bureaucrats

The Orange County Register — The Orange County Register

Feb. 14-- Feb. 14--Gov. Gavin Newsom was right to end sweetheart deals for state employees who were paid with taxpayer funds to commute back and forth to work, which was reported by The Sacramento Bee earlier this week.

Victories for fiscal responsibility are hard to come by in California, so even though this was a small victory, it was victory nonetheless.

These ridiculous arrangements, negotiated under Newsom's predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, did not apply to costs associated with travel as part of the normal course of work. Those are paid by the state and should be paid by any employer.

What Newsom ended was a handful of deals where bureaucrats who thought they shouldn't have to move near the job they were being hired to do got paid to commute to and from work, which sometimes included airfare and even weekday apartments.

The most egregious example, outed by The Sacramento Bee, was of former Caltrans director Laurie Berman, who was paid more than $21,000 in a year to commute from San Diego to Sacramento for work.

According to media reports and the state auditor, some of these arrangements violated state law, others teetered on the edge. However, legality should not be the benchmark by which the state evaluates actions. In fact, these arrangements only highlighted the state's loose relationship with fiscal responsibility.

Too often, those with whom our taxpayer funds have been entrusted have made spending decisions that abandon prudence and common sense. We see that in the state's pension system, spending on high-speed rail and in creating new social programs that will cause headaches during economic downturns. Budget season is full of such examples and Newsom's budget is no different.

The deals that Newsom killed were insignificant when taken into the context of the entire state budget, which is around $222 billion as currently proposed. But these deals do highlight the wastefulness and soft corruption that threatens the state's fiscal health.

We applaud Newsom for ending these deals and encourage him to ride this momentum to purge corruption and wasteful spending throughout the state government.

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