One of the things that stuck out in the report was a recommendation that Caltrans cut back on staff in order to “justify” its annual capital outlay support program.
Jumping on that little tidbit, Tom Blackburn, president of American Council of Engineering Companies California, which has a long-running feud with the Professional Engineers in California Government, says, “Finally, the LAO has addressed the elephant in the room. The public unions’ stranglehold on California’s transportation infrastructure has brought California taxpayers a huge cost to bear in the present and the future in unfunded pensions and medical benefits. Too much money goes into benefits rather than box culverts, pensions rather than projects and salaries rather than streets. And, once the public union employee is hired, it’s virtually impossible to terminate them.”
The LAO recommends that Caltrans “provide additional information to justify its annual COS budget request,” report on steps to control costs, request an audit of the program's time charging practices and, the kicker, “reduce the program’s staffing by about 1,500 (and $200 million a year) to align with actual workload if Caltrans does not provide workload justification for its COS budget request.”
Blackburn says that while $200 million is “a great start, it is not enough to get us back on track. We need fundamental change at the state level in order to get our finances in order, the economy back on track and real job creation that is genuinely productive and not a drain on state coffers.”
Blackburn further states that “Caltrans is the largest engineering organization of its kind in the world and would never be replicated in the private sector. It is so huge that it ends up spending too much time and resources on internal management and coordination. That’s just not economical.”