Cal Fire needs to come clean with stashed funds
State officials should be embarrassed by revelations that Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, has stashed away millions of dollars, just as the state Department of Parks and Recreation did.
Making Cal Fire’s hiding of $3.6 million more embarrassing, is the agency just got through a new policy that charges residents in Cal Fire’s protection areas $150 a year to provide that protection. Several hundred property owners in Tulare County, including those in Springville, must pay that fee.
It was reported that Cal Fire hid the money rather than depositing it into the state’s general fund as required. The revelation came after voters approved Proposition 30 in November to tax themselves to help dig the state out of a budget deficit. It also comes after it was learned that the parks department had hidden $20 million in a special fund.
The Department of Finance is planning an investigation, and Republican lawmakers have also called for an investigation. We agree an investigation is needed.
The slush funds bring into question the fiscal status of the state. Is it really broke, as the governor led us to believe prior to the November vote, or was money just hidden away to make a better case for Californians to tax themselves more?
We are disappointed that Gov. Brown has not come out more strongly against the action. He called for an audit by the state Department of Finance after the first discovery, but so much for the audit, since that is not what uncovered the Cal Fire slush fund.
Taxpayers deserve better. California residents have to work until April 20 just to cover the taxes they pay. That is tied for the 11th latest date of all of the 50 states. Texas, whose governor is in the Golden State this week trying to lure industries to the Lone Star State, is 31st with a Tax Freedom Day of April 11.
We agree the discovery raises serious questions. Hopefully, the governor will push for answers.