• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

State agencies under fire for rash spending

February 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
There were some heated exchanges Wednesday in Sacramento, where several state agencies came under fire for spending millions on new furniture and cars when the state is cutting education and social services.Lawmakers want to know why the money was spent when California is dealing with a budget shortfall.

All those new cars, new furniture and off-site travel to conferences put department heads on the hot seat Wednesday with lawmakers grilling agencies on how they could spend $75 million last year in the midst of a budget crisis.

The Air Resources Board spent nearly $500,000 on furniture for 40 new employees.

The cost of each worker's cubicle is shocking.

"It's around $5,000 for a workspace. Excuse me, around $7,000," said Rob Oglesby of the California Air Resources Board.

When asked what constitutes a workspace, Oglesby replied, ""It's basically a cubicle."

San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher just bought furniture for his home office.

"I went to IKEA, and I picked out a nice one. Assembled it, and it was significantly less," said Fletcher.

The Department of Motor Vehicles opened a new office that needed new cubicles for 144 new hires last year plus old floors needed updating first.

"It was particle board, and they had no capability to address repetitive stress injuries or lifting keyboards and stuff," said Dennis Clear of the DMV.

The spending spree irritated lawmakers considering they approved deep budget cuts to schools and social programs and furloughed state workers without pay, while the agencies kept writing checks.

"If you ask people do they want a new DMV office or do they want funding for their schools, they're going to choose a different priority than what you chose sitting in the DMV," said Assemblywoman Alyson Huber.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger encourages lawmakers to root out more waste.

"The more we can all look into government and check out if there's any wasteful spending, the better it is for the people of California and the better it is for the taxpayer," said Schwarzenegger.

Caltrans, which spent the most last year on new cars, said the $10 million went towards replacing vehicles that surpassed 200,000 miles or did not meet strict air pollution requirements.