The dismal state of the state of California owes much to basic incompetence and a religious zeal for failed statist policies but as you are about to find out there is also a moral failing that is at once symptomatic and causal to California’s overall wretchedness.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, California lawmakers sought a way to channel the patriotic fervor and use it to help victims' families and law enforcement. Their answer: Specialty memorial license plates emblazoned with the words, "We Will Never Forget."
Part of the money raised through the sale of the plates was to fund scholarships for children of California residents who perished in the attacks, while the majority -- 85 percent -- was to help fund anti-terrorism efforts.
But a review by The Associated Press of the $15 million collected since lawmakers approved the "California Memorial Scholarship Program" shows only a small fraction of the money went to scholarships. While 40 percent has funded anti-terror training programs, $3 million was raided by Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to plug the state's budget deficit.
Millions more have been spent on budget items with little relation to direct threats of terrorism, including livestock diseases and workplace safety.
Moreover, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been advertising the plates as helping the children of Sept. 11 victims, even though the state stopped funding the scholarship program seven years ago. The specialty plate fund continues to take in $1.5 million a year.
Somebody ought to do something about this, right? Well, how about one of the people responsible for this pilfering in the first place?
Late Tuesday, in response to the AP report, Brown ordered his finance department to audit California's entire specialty license program, which was established by the Legislature in 1992, said Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the governor.
We imagine the Governor was shocked, shocked such behavior was taking place.
Of the $15 million that has been raised through this program, only $21,000 has been allocated to scholarships and even that portion of the program was discontinued in 2005 even though the plate program still advertises the scholarships being an active part of the program.
The original legislation said the remainder of the money would go to law enforcement, fire protection, and public health agencies to be used "exclusively for purposes directly related to fighting terrorism."
But in 2008, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, borrowed $2 million to close a budget gap. Last year, Brown, a Democrat, borrowed another $1 million.
So, are there any plans to repay the program? Shut up, they explained:
Neither loan has been repaid nor are their deadlines to ensure they will be. Ashford, said the loans have done no harm and that the governor has no immediate plans to repay them.
"We're trying to simultaneously balance the budget and fund important programs," she said. "If there was an indication that borrowing this money was going to negatively impact this program, we wouldn't borrow the money."
How the hell can you negatively impact this program when effectively, there is no scholarship program? Absolutely disgraceful.
What makes this all the more pathetic is that the amount that is significant with respect to college scholarships for the intended sons and daughters of California’s fallen is just a rounding error when it comes to California’s budget and specifically, California’s budget shortfall.
To put a wrap on this, allow us to feature your typical world-weary and disgruntled
Patricia Anderson, who paid $98 for a personalized memorial plate reading "WE R 4US," said she signed up for the program primarily to show respect for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Anderson said she was disheartened but not surprised to learn that much of the money has gone to fill the state deficit or used for general purposes.
"That's California," said Anderson, who now lives near Austin, Texas. "It's kind of a given these days -- nothing is spent on what it's supposed to be."
And this is precisely the reason why we are giving a big fat No to Prop. 29.
Misallocation of funds and having no intention of repaying the funding source while spitting on the graves of 9-11 victims. Congratulations Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown on your very, very special trifecta.