This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- California lawmakers have tried for 50 years to stem the state's housing crisis. Here's why they've failed.
- Gov. Jerry Brown acted Tuesday to break up the scandal-plagued state Board of Equalization.
- Progressive activists are angry with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon who shelved a proposal to creates a single-payer healthcare system in California, calling it "woefully incomplete."
Two months after a state audit found mismanagement at the University of California, Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday blocked a Republican legislator’s proposal to have auditors go back in and look deeper at spending, this time with an eye for possible criminal activity.
Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) said the follow-up examination was justified after an audit in April found the UC Office of the President had failed to disclose a $175-million budget surplus to the Board of Regents and the public, was paying excessive salaries and expenses and had inadequate financial safeguards in place to prevent abuse.
The lack of controls, the audit concluded, was “putting millions of dollars at risk of abuse.”
“I am fighting to return trust in the institution of the UC Office of the President for students, parents, faculty and staff,” Acosta said. “Only complete transparency can accomplish that goal.”
However, no Democratic lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to authorize a new audit, so the motion failed. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) said the university administration should be given time to address the recommendations of its recent audit.
“I believe this request is premature,” he said.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said Wednesday in response to a legislator’s question that she did not find any evidence of misuse of funds. “We didn’t see anything nefarious,” Howle told the panel.
UC President Janet Napolitano said funds were not hidden, but she has agreed to adopt policies to make the budget process more transparent. Monica Lozano, chairwoman of the UC Board of Regents, told the legislative committee Wednesday that a new audit is “unnecessary” and may interfere with the system’s implementation of recommendations from the last audit, including the hiring of an accountant to look at UC spending.