Fiscal matters related to COVID-19 has dominated the budget discussions at the State Capitol this spring and summer. In recent weeks, there have been increasingly difficult political discussions over the Newsom administration’s COVID-19 budget spending.
A powerful letter sent to Gov. Newsom and lawmakers last week should leave all taxpayers concerned about how our tax dollars are being spent to battle the pandemic.
California’s nonpartisan State Auditor Elaine Howle warned lawmakers last week to keep a close eye on tens of billions in federal funds to combat the virus is being spent.
In a letter to the Governor and legislative leaders, Howle designated the state’s management of federal coronavirus dollars as “a high-risk statewide issue.” Specifically, she writes that “multiple factors create potential for inefficiencies and waste that may impair the effective and timely delivery of crucial government services supported by federal COVID-19 funds.”
A day after Howle sent her letter, Newsom announced a $1.4 billion deal to provide coronavirus testing at a lower cost and increase the state’s testing capacity.
One reason Newsom’s coronavirus-related spending came under big scrutiny was that the Legislature handed him a blank check and left town for much of the spring during the height of the crisis. This was when Newsom entered into his controversial $1 billion mask deal. Even as the Legislature returned and started to ask tough questions, the Administration has been evasive to lawmakers and journalists.
The Legislature adjourned early this morning until December, when the next session of the Legislature convenes. Howle’s warning has many concerned that more questionable and unaccountable spending will occur in the coming weeks as Newsom essentially has months to act on his own without a Legislature in town to hold his feet to the fire.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.