Out of Control Policy Blog

Prop 1E: Yoga bond?

As voters in California consider two water infrastructure and park bonds on the November ballot, Prop. 1E and Prop. 84, a state Department of Finance audit finds that "only a small fraction of the $10 billion from four environmental bonds voters passed between 2000 and 2002" was misappropriated by a software glitch (Dept. of Water Resources), spent on Red Carpet Club membership (Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy), or used to pay for yoga classes (state Coastal Conservancy). In some muckraking no doubt inspired by the anti-yoga lobby, the Contra Costa Times reports:

The state Coastal Conservancy spent $38,000 in bond funds for questionable purposes, including $29,000 for lobbying in Washington, $5,000 for employee transit subsidies and $3,500 for employee yoga and weight-loss programs in the fiscal year ending June 2005, according to an audit report in March. The conservancy agreed to reimburse the bond funds.

The head of the state Coastal Conservancy, Samuel Schuchat, said his agency's spending on improper items amounted to a small fraction of 1 percent of the $431 million the agency has spent.

Schuchat told auditors that if other funds were unavailable, it would be justifiable to use bond money for employee benefits, including yoga, weight-loss programs and transit. But he backed off that stance in an interview.

"We will not spend bond money for yoga classes," he said. "People will make mistakes and the auditors will hopefully find them so we can fix them. ... That's why you do audits."

So I guess the lesson is, as long as the fraction of environmental bond money spent on yoga classes is less than 1 percent, everything's good. With Props. 1E and 84 adding up to about $9.5 billion, we've got $90,000,000 to spend on yoga classes!

Last week an attorney representing taxpayer interests sent a request to Attorney General Lockyer asking for the recovery of funds allegedly misappropriated by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Conveniently, California law also allows bond funds to be used to reimburse legal expenses.

Skaidra Smith-Heisters is Policy Analyst


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