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California State Government June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Our Fiscal Watch-Dog

By Tony Strickland

Candidate for Controller; Republican Party

This information is provided by the candidate
The job of Controller has been called the state's second most powerful office, yet ironically, few Californians are familiar with the enormous influence the Controller has over the amount of taxes they will pay.

While the Controller serves on 62 boards and commissions, administers the $4.8 billion Unclaimed Property program and exercises dramatic influence over the implementation of tax policy through seats on the Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board, the office's most powerful role + that of auditing state government + is the one seldom noted and almost never used.

The Controller's office was designed to be a check on government spending, and as such, the Controller is supposed to be the fiscal watchdog over the expenditure of all public funds.

A simple sentence in the State Constitution invests the Controller with tremendous responsibility, "Money may be drawn from the Treasury only through an appropriation made by law and upon a Controller's duly drawn warrant." This gives the power of audit over every state agency, including local governments.

Charged with overseeing more than $100 billion in state funds annually and keeping the public informed of the State's financial condition, the Controller's office, however, has too often been sought by those not eager to rock the boat as they use the office as a stepping stone to higher office.

When I served in the State Assembly, I saw first hand the need for the Controller to take a strong position on auditing waste and inefficiencies from government.

In fact, few people have an opportunity to do so much good for the state. We've all heard the stories: Medi-Cal fraud, lucrative no-bid contracts for political cronies, and healthcare for prisoners that costs double what you and I pay on the "outside."

But just last week, Steve Westly, Democratic candidate for Governor and our current Controller, announced that a major part of his solution to balancing the state budget was to conduct audits of government programs. This is an amazing revelation- Westly's job as Controller has been to account for tax dollars that are being spent. His single highest responsibility is to ensure government is accountable. Now that he is running for higher office he promises to fulfill that duty - when he has a different job.

During Westly's term, over 30,000 state cars have gone missing - nearly half of the entire fleet. Rob Reiner's First 5 program was allowed to dole out over $20 million in no-bid contracts to political cronies, and subsequently admits to losing an additional $2.5 million of taxpayer money. Building of a new bay bridge has been allowed to spiral out of control.

With a Controller committed to his responsibility of thoroughly reviewing government spending, disgraced former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley wouldn't have been allowed to subvert federal voting act funds and direct them to his campaign staff.

By judiciously targeting bloated bureaucracies, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, we could not only send a message that would be heard in every quarter of state and local government, but we could develop real templates for how a government program ought to be run.

There ARE roles government must fill in our society, but voters will only begin to trust government when they know it is spending money wisely. We must have transparent and accountable programs and a State Controller committed to that goal.

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