Friday, April 29, 2011

Caltrans: "Our Willful Stupidity Has Ruined Us!"

Apparently State Auditor Elaine Howle has some answers for the Governor on the massive cost overruns on Caltrans projects. According to an LA Times report, her answers boil down to this: Caltrans' management of those projects was mind-bogglingly incompetent.

The logo of the future . . . today!
At issue: over the past three years, Caltrans has overspent its staff-support budget for construction projects by an astonishing $305 million (the agency's entire budget for such activities in that time was $1.1 billion). Staff support refers to the preparation and oversight of construction work, and is supposed to account for about a third of a given project's budget. In her audit of 766 projects, Howle found that 62% had run over their staff-support budgets. How did that happen? Well, apparently in two important ways.

First, many construction managers apparently monitored only the hours spent on staff support for projects, not the costs. Amazing! Is it possible that paying no attention to a project's costs, and making no effort to hold individuals accountable for their spending, actually makes those people less sensitive to increasing costs? But that's not all. Apparently, many Caltrans employees got large raises, some as high as 40%, over the four-year period ending in July 2009. And you can understand why: the managers had to notice how many hours those folks were putting in. So, basically, lots of Caltrans' workers were getting huge salary increases at the same time project costs were ballooning.

All in all, just another reminder that Jerry Brown and California Democrats have yet to prove their case that the state needs tax increases to survive.


  1. AnonymousMay 7, 2011 04:41 PM
    In 2008, rank and file engineers at Caltrans received a long overdue 10% raise to the envy of most every other Caltrans employee, and even supervisors and managers, all who received no pay increases. How many received 40% increases over a four-year period, and who are they? What unmitigated spin!
  2. GSLMay 7, 2011 05:12 PM
    Howle's report is here. The relevant section begins on page 35, but we'll quote from page 37: "The changes in the support cost hourly rate were due in part to salary increases agreed to in a memorandum of understanding effective from July 2003 through July 2008 between the State and the Professional Engineers in California Government. Specifically, from fiscal years 2005–06 through 2008–09, the annual salaries of certain Caltrans employees, including engineers, increased by more than
    40 percent".

    As far as "who were they", you'd probably need a FOIA request to get at that, but we stand by the point we made here.