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Gov. Brown Wants State Workers To Repay Advances

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California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California State Capitol in Sacramento (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered state agencies to recover millions of dollars in salary and travel advances that were given to state workers but never repaid.

The Democratic governor issued an executive order directing agencies to investigate a backlog of uncollected debt.

“It’s shocking that the state has apparently failed to collect millions of dollars in salary and travel advances owed by state employees,” Brown said in a statement. “This situation reinforces the worst stereotype of ineffective and inefficient government.”

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

California gives salary and travel advances to state employees under special circumstances, such as when an employee is leaving state service and needs a final check, when an employee makes a hardship request or when an employee travels.

Audits by the state controller’s office have found the state has not done a good job of getting the money back or making sure it was spent properly. A 2009 audit found that $13.3 million in advances had not been collected by 11 agencies.

Auditors warned that the longer the debt goes uncollected, the more likely it will not be recovered. They found that many departments have been failing to follow state rules, which direct the state to deduct the money from the worker’s paycheck.

“The state’s poor debt collection and accounting practices are fleecing public coffers at a time when vital public programs are being decimated by unprecedented budget cuts,” Controller John Chiang said in a statement.

Brown ordered state agencies to do a better job of notifying state employees who received a travel advance but fail to submit a travel expense claim. He ordered the state to make deductions from an employee’s next paycheck if those claims are not submitted within 30 days.

The governor has said he wants to reduce waste and make government more efficient as the state faces a remaining $15.4 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that begins in July. California’s deficit, which once stood at nearly $27 billion, was reduced after the Legislature approved billions in cuts and some fund transfers.

But filling the remaining hole has proved politically difficult.

To bridge most of the remaining deficit, Brown proposed calling a statewide election to ask voters to extend the state’s sales, income and vehicle taxes for five years. Republican lawmakers, who oppose tax increases, have stood in his way.

Brown needs a minimum of four GOP votes — two in each house — to meet a two-thirds requirement for the Legislature to put the tax extension question before voters.

Both sides tried to rally support for their positions this week. With the Legislature on spring recess, some Republicans toured biomedical facilities to learn the challenges of being innovative in a heavily regulated state like California. Democrats, including Assembly Speaker John Perez, hosted a town hall to discuss the impact of further service cuts if taxes aren’t approved.

Brown, who has also been touring the state to get out his message, was scheduled to hold a budget forum in Santa Clarita on Thursday. Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who represents that district, is expected to attend.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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