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Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 4/16/2012
Budget Issue: Division of Law Enforcement
Program: Department of Justice
Finding or Recommendation: Approve Governor's January budget proposal for partial restoration of the Division of Law Enforcement. Shift the existing $2 million General Fund appropriation for the Special Investigations Team to the Legal Services Revolving Fund.
Further Detail

Background. The Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) within the California Department of Justice (DOJ) conducts investigations and enforcement activities throughout California. Among other activities, the DLE provides investigative support to DOJ’s attorneys in various legal matters. In the current year, the Special Investigations Team (SIT)—the unit within DLE responsible for providing this support—includes 17 positions and receives a total of $2.7 million ($2.0 million General Fund and $700,000 False Claims Act Fund). The DOJ also contracts with private investigators as needed.

The Legal Services Revolving Fund (LSRF) supports DOJ’s legal services, including the costs of litigation and related investigative activities. Based on our conversations with DOJ, we estimate the LSRF to have a year-end fund balance of about $25 million in 2012-13, or about 13 percent of its proposed $192 million in expenditures.

Governor’s Budget Proposal. The Governor’s January budget includes a proposed augmentation of $11.8 million ($4.9 million General Fund, $6.9 million LSRF) to provide 51 additional positions in the DLE. This request includes $5.9 million from the LSRF to fund 22 new sworn agent positions for the SIT. According to DOJ, the resulting 39 positions will continue to provide investigative support to the department’s attorneys, and will reduce the need to contract with private investigators. The Governor’s budget, however, does not reflect a reduction in these contracts.

LAO Recommendations. We recommend approving the Governor’s proposal. While we have no technical concerns with the proposal, the Legislature may wish to direct DOJ to report at budget hearings on the degree to which the proposed increase in SIT staffing levels will reduce the need to contract for private investigative services. Reduced use of contracting could lower costs borne by the General Fund, LSRF, and other special funds.

In addition, we recommend shifting the existing $2 million General Fund appropriation for the SIT to the LSRF. This shift would reduce General Fund costs by $2 million annually. Based on our conversations with DOJ, the existing General Fund-supported SIT workload would be an appropriate use of LSRF special funds, similar to those new positions being proposed.