A whopping $400 million has turned up unexpectedly in state accounts, money collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles that had been overlooked because of a computer "glitch," a DMV spokesman said.
Most of the windfall, $302 million, will go to cities and counties for road construction.
DMV spokesman Erwin Cooper on Thursday blamed "a slight error in the computer, which didn't seem to be adding up to the income we should be getting." He said DMV and state Finance Department officials have spent months tracking down the problem.
"There seemed to be a discrepancy that kept on growing," Cooper said, "considering the volume of vehicle sales."
The money included vehicle registration, driver's license and truck weight fees.
Cooper said the DMV and Finance Department were in agreement that the $400 million has gone "into the treasury, into the state accounts where it belongs," but that it "just wasn't showing up on our computers."
Cooper urged the public "to bear in mind that there are 20 million vehicles (in California) and even one or two pennies (per vehicle) adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a hurry."
Computer and administrative problems at the DMV were disclosed this week by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) in a statement to members of the Assembly Transportation Committee, which he chairs. Katz has scheduled an April 2 hearing on the DMV's management.
The DMV has "an interesting history of computer experience, or inexperience," Katz said. "We're taking a hard look at it.
"My initial guess is that management improvements are taking hold and they are correcting mistakes of the past," Katz said.