GOP Lawmakers Seek to Pull Plug on Funding

By Mike Luery

There’s a move at the State Capitol to eliminate the California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, one of the biggest government agencies in the state.

Some Republican lawmakers today accused the giant agency of wasting taxpayer dollars – after seeing a CBS 13 investigation on a Caltrans junket in the desert. Watch

An On The Money story called “Paying for Paradise” documented the Caltrans spending spree in October 2009. Using undercover cameras, CBS 13 took viewers inside a Caltrans convention at a luxury resort in Palm Desert – a convention in which Caltrans shelled out more than $80,000 to send 52 employees to a transportation conference at a four star hotel that offered gondola rides on a manmade lagoon.

“Certainly that story was a tipping point,” said Senator Joel Anderson. The El Cajon Republican called the Caltrans convention, “another example of government waste.”

Anderson is calling for a defunding of Caltrans – an agency that he says is too fat, from a diet of taxpayer dollars.

“If you take their salaries,” Anderson told CBS 13, “total salaries paid and total benefits paid and divide it by the total number of employees, it’s in excess of $100 thousand per employee.”

Anderson says he has a dozen co-authors – all Republicans – who want to take nearly $13 billion from Caltrans and shift that money to local cities and counties for their highways, roads and bridges. Doing so they say, would save $2 billion a year.

“Caltrans has not been a good steward of this money,” Assemblyman Steve Knight. The Palmdale Republican added, “They have not done what they are supposed to be doing.”

The Republicans say they’re taking on Governor Brown’s challenge to realign state government by defunding an agency they believe to be inefficient.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R) Bakersfield, told Capitol reporters, “They’re just not being good stewards with our money.”

Caltrans responded with this statement from Media Relations Manager Matt Rocco, regarding Senate Bill 851:

“Caltrans agrees with Senator Anderson that state government must be as efficient as possible and shares the same goal of looking for ways to save
taxpayer dollars. Caltrans is currently administering one of the largest
construction programs in history with more than $10 billion in projects underway. This is during a time when our staffing levels are the lowest they’ve been since 2004. In the past five years, Caltrans has delivered
1,388 of 1,391 highway improvement projects worth $14.3 billion on schedule.

Working in partnership with local agencies, we are continually looking at ways to improve how we do business. In fact, over the last few years, we have significantly reduced our fleet, travel and vehicle-related spending, mobile phones, and level of management positions, saving taxpayers millions of dollars, all while maintaining more than 50,000 highway lane-miles across the state. It should also be noted that Caltrans received national recognition for its emergency response to rebuild the MacArthur Maze interchange in 26 days following a catastrophic tanker explosion.

We extend an invitation to educate and clarify key points to Senator Anderson on the complexity of maintaining and operating one of the largest transportation networks in the world, as well as efficiency steps we have already taken over the last several years to ensure Caltrans is effectively using taxpayer dollars.”

A group of government engineers also responded to Anderson’s legislation today, calling it “a misguided bill to put local agencies in charge of the state highway system.”

The Professional Engineers in California Government, a group representing 13,000 state engineers issued this statement:

“Caltrans is and will continue to be responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of the state highway system,” said PECG President and State Engineer Matt Hanson. “Caltrans delivered 304 of 306 projects scheduled for bid during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. And over the past five year, Caltrans has delivered 99.8 percent of projects on or ahead of schedule.”

By contrast, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reported last year that, local agencies obligated only 72 percent of their federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds while Caltrans obligated 100% of its funds.

“According to the Department of Finance, it costs twice as much to outsource engineering work at Caltrans. Specifically, in the most recent budget, the Department of Finance concludes that a state engineer (including salary, benefits, overhead and equipment) costs the taxpayer $113,000 a year while an outsourced private engineer costs an average of $226,000 annually,” said Hanson. “Local agencies outsource almost all of their engineering services through no-bid contracts.”

But Senator Anderson is not convinced.

“You know what, if we can get rid of Caltrans, I think that would be a good move,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day this is about building roads and infrastructure at the best possible value.”

If you see example of government waste, send us an e-mail to You can also follow On The Money stories in progress via Twitter at!/mikeluery

Comments (41)
  1. fredno says:

    Another Republican trying to play the money card cut squeeze trim, for votes he has not done his research and throwing around un founded accusations don’t make them true.The junket may well have been ill-advised but you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I wonder how many junkets those senators have been on at taxpayers expense???..

  2. honestyinGov says:

    Has anyone told Mr. Anderson that most of our goods are transported and moved by trucks across states.When it snows on I-80 between CA and NV who will clear those roads so the trucks move..?
    Shall we just WAIT for all that snow to melt. What an Idiot this guy is.

  3. Mark says:

    If the Repugs could have their way they would just eliminate everything and put us right back as if we were in 1811.

    Just remember, Republicans do not care about 98% of the people in this country. They care about the people with the huge 7-figure bank accounts. The 98% of us are just pawns.

  4. Opinionater says:

    Conservative Republicans don’t like, and do much less than live in the 21st century world in which everyone else does. They take ‘horse & buggy’ thinking to a whole new level of outmoded mental antiquity.

  5. Gunnone says:

    Sure get rid of CalTrans. I want to see my gas prices back down under $1.00 a gallon too. I live in a rural county with fewer roads I want lower gas prices. I don’t want to continue to pay for LA and SF roadways. Let the big city folks pay 4.50 per gallon to maintain and build their own roads

    1. Smart Gov. Not BS Talk says:


      Your County probably gets its’ funding from the tax dollars generated from L.A. .. get educated before you speak ..


    2. Don says:

      Okay, so you upkeep the roads that you use. Hope you have a good mule, because the few people that use your road aren’t making enough to pay for its upkeep, at least not happily

  6. Sac mail says:

    If they want to get rid of Caltrans fine, everyone will laid off and will get into the consulting business and can charge five time more. Pretty soon there will no money available to fix roads because consultant will sucking all the resources. Mr. Joel Anderson can ride on his bicycle to work.

  7. janerator says:

    I am reading these comments, but all I know is that when I see road projects, I see large numbers of Cal Trans people standing around with only one or two actually working and I see this all the time! Time to clean house.

    1. Art says:

      First of all you’re driving by for a second or two, do you park on the freeway for hours at a time?! Also, Caltrans staff doesn’t build freeways, they inspect only and occasional maintenance work !!! It’s the private sector contractors who build. so get you facts straight before opening the hole.

    2. Shannon says:

      I agree! Every morning I drive by dozens of Cal Trans workers (working on the same project and seeming to get nowhere after months) who are smoking on the job and just standing around!! Besides that, the roads aren’t maintained that well anyway!! Drive down Hazel or Sunrise and you’ll see!! Drive up HWY 50, and it’s the same! They get paid way too much to stand there doing a lousy job of directing the traffic!!

      1. Mimi says:

        Yeah – CT workers get paid way too much. That’s why both of the last two Directors of Caltrans left their $150,000/year job to work as Directors in local transportation agencies – OCTC & Marin County Transit for $250,000/yr.

      2. ellie says:

        Sir, you are one of the people who don’t know anything about how things run within Caltrans or any other agencies. Caltrans for most part just design tand maintain the roads. The people who you see everyday by the side of the road are not hired by Caltrans. They are hired by contractors.

    3. CT Clarification says:

      Art is completely correct! But let me clarify. When you people complain about Caltrans workers just standing around, 99% of the time they are NOT Caltrans workers. These people are private Contractors. Caltrans Construction projects are awarded to the lowest bidding, qualified Contractor. They are NOT built by Caltrans staff. Caltrans does NOT tell the Contractor how many people to use, nor how to do the work. Caltrans simply has very few Inspectors on site to ensure that the project is being built safely and according to the plans. The Contractor has a set number of days to complete the project. If the Contractor sends an army out to sit around and pick their nose for the first half of the Contract, Caltrans has little/no control. If the Contractor takes longer than the allotted days though, he/she pays large daily Liquidated Damages fees. Bottom line: Those Caltrans slackers that you always complain about are NOT Caltrans, they are private Contractors. Just look at the PRIVATE Contractor names on the trucks they are driving.

  8. Art says:

    The so-called “Caltrans junket in the desert” was an AASHTO and FHWA conference, which moves around the country and it happened to be in California. Caltrans would have sent staff even if it was in New York and would have cost a lot more. The so-called gondala rides are free to anyone at this hotel and most of the people who patronize these hotels all year round are fat cat republicans who lie and cheat the public every single day.

    1. Paul says:

      now that is “on the money” lol

  9. Bob says:

    I respectfully suggest Senator Anderson compare the salaries and benefits paid to those in charge of the local agencies he would use to replace Caltrans with the salaries and benefits paid to Caltrans employees. He would find that the current arrangement is a bargain.

  10. Art says:

    Transportation funds at both Federal and any State level are significant because that’s what drives this country, we need roads, bridges, airports, etc. to move people and goods. So, I’m not surprised that the rip-off-licans want the whole pot of money to themselves. They’re greedy SOBs that are never satisfied and they want more and more. Yes, there’s waste in both public and private sector but that doesn’t mean that we have to hand over everything to these greedy, wall-street-tied bunch of cheats!!
    Also, in California 75% of the transportation funds are controlled by local agencies (Cities, Counties, and Transportation Authorities) … so basically these guys are after the remaining 25%, ten percent of which is also contracted out to private sector, so they’re after the remaining 22.5% of the pot so they can rape the treasury without anybody watching them. That’s what you call GREED boys and girls!!! They want to destroy middle class, take the few dollars that’s paid to State employees, who turn around and put every penny of it back in your local economy, and give it to big transportation companies who are working nationwide and worldwide and will ship most of the jobs overseas.

  11. Daniel says:

    This dumbo should look into his plan a little more before spouting off about a subject he is obviously ignorant. Aside from the fact that the $58,000 was spent to sponsor the National State Highway Departments conference, ask the FHWA what they will do if Caltrans was eliminated.

  12. Rico says:

    CalTrans does good for the state. Why not abolish Cal EPA and the other porcine state agencies that are wasting taxpayer dollars on the most asinine programs and projects ever heard of.

    Get rid of them and make CA business and family friendly as it was in the 50s.

    Let’s all move to get a part time legislature in this state.

  13. geeM says:

    This was not a Caltrans selected meeting site. It was selected by others. Before you make blanket statements about Caltrans pay, you can go to Sac Bee’s site and look up State worker salaries in excess of 200K. If you give up trying to find someone in Caltrans in that range, it’s not surprising. Most of the 200K to 1 million gov. wages are in the State University systems.
    There is also a note above about who constructs the roads and bridges, it’s private contractors doing the contracts.

  14. j clyde says:

    What’s the public employee to private employee ratio in Sacramento? Public employees are killing this state, they get paid more, receive premium benefit packages for no productive reason, work less and they have unions that bleed the private workforce to pay for their outrageous pensions.

    And,then, they have the audacity to claim they are being maligned. 1 out of every 4 Californians is out of work and the government workers are still pushing for more.

    I say stop taxing the private sector and let the public sector pay for itself.

    If Jerry Brown is sincere about rejuvenating this state, he’ll take the DMV and every other department that can operate online or with kiosks and eliminate the bloated bureaucracy. If banks can work around the world online and with ATMs why can’t the geniuses in Sacto?

    you have to wait for hours in their offices or weeks to receive responses

  15. John S. says:

    Take note of which areas these politicians represent : El Cajon, Bakersfield and Palmdale. The “arm pits” of California ! They are afriad of losing all their re-development funds, so they are scrambling to substitute. Or, there is another possibility. They could be all ….what’s the the word I am looking for ? Oh Yah, STUPID !

  16. Uncle Sam says:

    Hi folks, Uncle Sam here. Why do we need to take it out on my children? Public SERVANTS did not get us into this financial mess. There are no millionaires at CalTrans. The greedy fat cats on Wall Street are to blame, yet they get off clean. Sure, W’s invasion of the Middle East didn’t help, but 0% bank rates created a frenzy that tripled housing prices. All good things must come to an end & the bubble popped, sending middle class America out into the streets. Hmm, but corporate America seems ok. We have to eat & clothe ourselves, so the DOW has rebounded nicely. They aren’t completely done squeezing the life out of the middle class though, so now they are coming after public employees. I guess they’re going to have to find another way to get to their vacation homes in Tahoe!

  17. freedom says:

    Find your state in the web site below and you will find all the billions of dollars in funding your surrogate state government has hidden from the sovereign people who entrusted them with it. These are the second set of books you never hear about on TV. You also can go to your county, city, and ISD and find where else they are hiding the people’s money to use in corporate investments that enrich the international bank-based corporate crime syndicate known as the New World Order/Illuminati, but not we the people who are being systematically deprived of our material security and basic services while constantly being dunned for new taxes. Some of these records are outdated, but they will give you an idea of how and where you can proceed from your state’s current comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).

  18. bob says:

    Q:What sleeps 6 and is white and orange?

    A: A Cal Trans truck

    1. skinautique1985 says:

      It’s funny that people cant read, The next time you drive by a construction zone, look at the names on the sides of the trucks, chances are it will say DeSilva Gates, Teichert, FCI, MCM, Granite, ect. notice how they are not orange? they are green or red, or white, that is because they do not belong to Caltrans, they are PRIVATE CONTRACTORS working on LOW BID CONTRACTS for Caltrans. look out at HWY 50 HOV extension for example, I drive it Every Day, there are between 4 and 8 inspectors watching 60 to 100 workers. their job is to make sure the stuff the contractors are building dont fall over, The next major earthquate that happens, think about the roads you drive on, do you want somebody ensuring that bridge is built properly? I sure do.

    2. Mimi says:

      No, no, no – It’s what’s white and sleeps six? An Edison truck

  19. Reno says:

    Here is the truth:

    For the last 16years every State Assemblyperson and 3 of 4 governors has ripped off the public’s transportation funds. Nothing anyone sez here is true uless the bring their elected representatives in to account to using STIP and SHOPP funds for something else.

    Civil servants don’t get paid that much and every office is on a hiring freeze and purchasing freeze year after year. For those of you who think you know what your are talking about; try to operate and maintain 600Plus miles of freeway with 5% to 10% less resources each year over the last 8 years. With a crew average of 4 people to care for 1600 plus acres of roadside and or 42 miles of freeway roadway; no chemical program; no place to dump; no use of water; and an EPA law that the surfriders have brought to you all and you blame the civil servants.

    Ignorance is bliss in the A.M. RADIO WORLD….

  20. Mimi says:

    “At the end of the day this is about building roads and infrastructure at the best possible value.” Apparently Senator Anderson isn’t concerned about safety, just the cost.

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