Anderson targets Caltrans at Ramona Tea’d meeting
By Karen Brainard
Calling for possible elimination of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), State Sen. Joel Anderson criticized the spending and activities of the state agency during his speech at the Ramona Tea’d meeting.
“One of my hot button issues is Caltrans,” he told those at the March 31 event.
Anderson said Caltrans’ budget is $12 billion to $15 billion per year but either road projects are not getting built or completed — or they have excessive cost overruns.
“The return on our investment is absolutely outrageous,” said Anderson.
Anderson said Caltrans employs 20,000 to 22,000 workers and when benefits are included the average pay per worker is $104,000.
One of those employees is at the center of an investigation that Anderson recently requested of Gov. Jerry Brown. That employee allegedly fabricated bridge safety tests over a three-year period and charged for 400 hours of overtime. Although he was fired, Anderson said, the employee was reinstated and allowed to retire without repercussion. Anderson is asking the governor and state attorney general to investigate allegations of criminal activity at Caltrans.
Anderson noted that there are skilled people at Caltrans and said he wasn’t picking on the “rank and file,” but, he added, “The management needs to go.”
The senator stood on the stage with two large poster boards depicting what he targeted as wasteful spending. They showed photos of what he referred to as “Caltrans’ San Diego Palace” — the transportation department’s offices, built in 2006, on Taylor Street that he said cost $86 million — and a “Caltrans’ taxpayer-funded junket to ‘Paradise in the Desert,’” that reportedly cost around $72,000.
“The bottom line is start spending our money wisely before you ask for more,” Anderson said as a message to Caltrans.
If Caltrans were eliminated, Anderson suggested federal and state highway funding could go to city or county governments or to local transportation agencies that could partner with construction firms to get roads built and repaired.
Anderson introduced a bill last year, SB 851, which states the intent to change the way highways are built and maintained in California. He encouraged those at the meeting to send letters to his office, saying an abundance of letters in support of proposed legislation creates a tidal wave into other counties and helps to get a bill approved.
More information is at cssrc.us/web/36 or his El Cajon office at 619-596-3136.
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