A state lawmaker is criticizing California agencies for failing to spend nearly $10 million in charitable donations made by taxpayers.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, chairman of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, will hold a hearing on Wednesday to look into the waylaid funds that Californians donated for causes like cancer research when they filed their tax returns. The Associated Press first reported on the unspent money in August.
"This is unacceptable," Hertzberg said in a statement. "People expect their money to be spent for these important purposes, and bureaucratic delays send absolutely the wrong message to those who made donations in good faith."
The money is part of the $35 million collected since 2005 for 29 funds through the nation's largest voluntary tax contribution program.
Among the unspent money The AP found, $237,000 was raised to fund colorectal cancer screenings under a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, enough to pay for more than 200 colonoscopies. But the departments of Public Health and Health Care Services said they never were authorized to spend the money.
Tax forms currently list 20 funds that typically raise more than $4 million a year, according to the committee.
The AP found that nearly $280,000 that was supposed to be spent on asthma and lung disease research was never allocated by legislators or public health officials. Education officials said nearly $90,000 went back to the state's general fund because there wasn't enough money for the intended program to aid disadvantaged youth.
Hertzberg's committee said in a report that in some cases a significant amount of the money goes to administration, particularly if the receiving agency has to hire new employees to handle the funds. It does not say how often that happens, but it recommends that groups seeking new check-offs select agencies that already are able to handle the responsibility.
Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, summoned representatives from the departments of Education and Public Health to the hearing in Los Angeles after more than $300,000 in gifts reverted to the state treasury.