Ted and Beth Gaines were in El Dorado Hills last week to update the Tea Party Patriots on what they’re doing in Sacramento to protect taxpayers.
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Both were elected in 2011, Beth to the reconfigured Assembly District 6, which now contains El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park, plus portions of Placer and Sacramento Counties, Ted to California Senate District 1, which encompasses the northwest corner of the state, including all of El Dorado County.
Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, arrived fresh off two days of hearings on the California Parks Department slush fund scandal.
The department had $20.4 million in the state Parks and Recreation Fund last year while threatening to close 70 parks in response to budget cuts.
An apparent $33.5 million surplus in the Off Highway Vehicle Fund turned out to be a reporting error by the State Department of Finance, according to Finance Department officials at the hearing.
The $20.4 million went unnoticed due to misreporting by Parks Department officials in budget documents, according to a state audit.
Ironically, the department would have needed legislative approval to spend any of the secret money. The Legislature and governor spent the $20 million on park operations later in 2012.
Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned when the story broke in July. Her deputy was fired.
Beth Gaines sits on the Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. She told her Tea Party audience Thursday that she called for the audit in July, and that the results were far from satisfying.
She was troubled that Parks Department leadership couldn’t produce a record of costs to run each of the 278 state parks. “There’s no tracking of revenue in or expenditures out,” she said.
Last fall Gov. Jerry Brown appointed retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson to turn around the battered department. Gaines recounted asking him how he planned on changing the department’s culture of entitlement.
“He asked for more money,” she said. “He said they couldn’t even keep the toilets clean on a $553 million budget.”
“There have been criminal acts here,” she continued, vowing to see those responsible held accountable.
Jackson originally proposed getting the cost numbers together for the next budget cycle.
“That’s two years from now,” said Gaines, shaking her head. “No, we’ll have them by May.”
Beth Gaines was equally dissatisfied with the state Finance Department and the State Auditor, who should have known the surplus was accumulating, she said.
Communication between the Parks Department and the auditor “just dropped off,” she said.
“If one of the 500-some state departments doesn’t answer your letters, do you just give up?” she asked. “This kind of communications breakdown is another example of the culture of entitlement in state government.”
“I vow to you, I’m going to watch these state departments and how they spend their money,” she said. “More audits are coming, I promise.”
Her energy and passion impressed the 150-or-so conservatives on Thursday, especially when they learned that she’d also introduced legislation calling for open Cap and Trade meetings that day.
“They’ve been meeting behind closed doors,” she said. “I’m convinced this culture of dishonesty isn’t limited to the Department of Parks and Rec.”
She’s always opposed AB-32’s goals, she said, “but now that it’s being implemented my goal is to control the abuse and shine light on this overreaching program.”
Her bill, AB-527, will prohibit any payments to Western Climate Initiative Inc, the firm charged with implementing cap and trade in California, unless the Air Resources Board certifies that WCI complies with the provisions of the California Open Meetings and Public Records Acts.
The bill also makes WCI subject to audit by California State Auditor.
“I’m your watchdog,” she said. “I’m watching your money. I’m also going to watch (Gov. Brown’s budget) Proposition 30 and make sure that money goes down to the schools.”
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, preceded his wife to the podium, and talked about life as a super minority. “I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s not going to be good,” he said.
Oil producers recently proposed a 9.9 cent per gallon fuel tax increase, despite a California fuel tax that is commensurate with other states, he said. “I don’t think voters of either party want to pay another 40 cents per gallon.”
He predicted that Democrats would propose a “split roll tax,” to raise commercial property taxes, which would trickle down to the consumer and hurt the economy, he said.
He promised to reintroduce legislation to repeal the fire tax, which is currently being litigated by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Ted Gaines commented on recent schisms in the Republican Party, rejecting the notion that Republicans are no longer relevant. “You’re only irrelevant if you believe you are,” he said. “We have a whole new opportunity in 2014. We just have to be smart about it.”
He called for greater outreach to immigrants, students, Latinos and Asians. “Their perception of us is old, rich, white guys that don’t care about anybody else.”
A recent poll by the New York Times found that young voters see Democrats as helping those in need. “That ought to be the perception of Republicans,” he said. “We are the ones that will provide an opportunity for you to succeed, to grow your business, to live the American Dream.”
Gaines reported that Democrats are scrambling to set up the Obamacare insurance exchange. “They’ll decide what types of insurance products are available,” rather than the free market, he said.
The exchange has cost three-quarters of a billion dollars thus far, he added.
Gaines worried that the exchange would become “an instrument for single payer healthcare.”
The California Medical Association, which supported Obamacare, is now in a panic because of a doctor shortage, he said.
To address the shortage, Democrats will propose modifications to “the scope of service,” he said, broadening the role of nurses and physicians assistants. Gaines predicted that doctors would oppose the changes.
“This has not been well thought out,” he concluded.
During the extended question-and-answer session of the Tea Party meeting, longtime El Dorado Hills resident Barbie Brilliant asked why she should stay in California, which has become “the unfriendliest retirement state there is.”
Beth Gaines took Brilliant’s observation as a challenge. “In California … we’re entrepreneurs. Our ancestors came to this state seeking a better life. Government was small. We had self-determination. Now we’re losing it. It makes me want to cry.”
“We need to reach out to youth,” she said. “We’re the party of freedom, independence, self-reliance and self-determination. Work hard and it pays off.”