California governors use funds from 'We Will Never Forget' 9/11 license plate sales

An example of the
An example of the "We Will Never Forget" 9/11 memorial plates. A report from the AP has found little oversight of the $250 million raised in the 20 years since California's legislature authorized the plates.
Randy Son of Robert/Flickr

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Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday ordered an audit of California's specialty license plate program after a review by the Associated Press found there was little oversight of the $250 million raised in the 20 years since the Legislature authorized the program.

You may have spotted one of those license plates with the American flag and the words "We Will Never Forget" around the Southland and elsewhere in California, created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Proceeds from sale of those plates were supposed to go, in part, to scholarships for the children of Californians who died in the attacks, while the rest of the money (85 percent) was earmarked for anti-terrorism efforts.

But AP reporter Hannah Dreier says former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger borrowed against the funds when he was in office. And now Gov. Jerry Brown has been doing the same.

“A good deal of the money has gone to kind of general administrative purposes, like workers safety at the Department of Agriculture," according to Dreier. "And 40 percent has gone to training programs to teach law enforcement and firefighters how to look out for terrorism and respond to terrorist attacks.”

She added that $3 million was "raided" by governors Schwarzenegger and Brown to plug deficits in California's budget.

Dreier said only four people received scholarships before the DMV closed the program seven years ago. There has been no word yet as to whether it will be reinstated.

The specialty plate fund continues to take in $1.5 million a year.