LAO 2003 Budget Analysis: Resources

Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2003-04 Budget Bill

Secretary for Resources (0540)

The Secretary for Resources oversees the Resources Agency. The Resources Agency through its various departments, boards, commissions, and conservancies is responsible for conservation, restoration, and management of California's natural and cultural resources. The following departments and organizations are under the Resources Agency:

· Conservation

· Wildlife Conservation Board

· Fish and Game

· State Coastal Conservancy

· Forestry and Fire Protection

· San Joaquin River Conservancy

· Parks and Recreation

· California Tahoe Conservancy

· Boating and Waterways

· California Coastal Commission

· Water Resources

· State Reclamation Board

· State Lands Commission

· Baldwin Hills Conservancy

· Colorado River Board

· Special Resources Programs

· California Conservation Corps

· Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy

· Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

· San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy

· San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission

· Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

· California Bay-Delta Authority

· Delta Protection Commission


· San Diego River Conservancy

The budget requests $54.3 million for the Secretary in 2003-04, a decrease of about $386 million below estimated current-year expenditures. The decrease largely reflects the transfer of the authority to spend Proposition 204 bond funds related to the CALFED Bay-Delta Program from the Secretary to the new California Bay Delta Authority. Major budget proposals include (1) $32.4 million (Proposition 50) for the River Parkway and Sierra Nevada Cascade Programs, (2) $12.5 million (Proposition 40) for the River Parkway and Urban Streams Programs, and (3) $2.3 million (Proposition 50) for statewide bond administration.

For a further discussion of other activities within the Secretary of Resources, please see the "Resource Assessments" write-up in the "Crosscutting Issues" section of this chapter.

Funding for River Parkways and Sierra Nevada Programs Should Be Provided Through Legislation

The budget proposes $33.3 million (Propositions 40 and 50) for river parkway projects and $7 million (Proposition 50) for grants in the Sierra Nevada Cascade Program. We recommend deleting the proposed funding pending enactment of legislation that defines these programs, establishes grant or project funding criteria, and sets expenditure priorities. (Reduce Item 0540-001-6031 by $32.4 million and Item 0540-001-6029 by $7.9 million.)

Budget Proposals. The budget proposes $25.4 million from Proposition 50 and $7.9 million from Proposition 40 in support of river parkway programs. The budget also proposes $7 million (Proposition 50) for grants for land and water resource acquisition in the Sierra Nevada Cascade Program.

Proposals Lack Key Information. The bond measures providing funding for these proposals give the implementing agencies very broad authority to expend the funds. Therefore, it is important that the budget proposals supply more specifics on how the programs will be implemented. Our review of the proposals, however, finds that they lack key information necessary to evaluate them. For example, neither of the river parkway proposals describes how the programs will be implemented. Among unanswered questions are whether the program will consist of direct expenditures on projects or grants, what criteria will be used to choose projects or award grants, and whether there will be any allocation by geographic area. While the Sierra Nevada Cascade Program proposal indicates that it will be administered as a grant program, no information is provided as to the type of grant program (competitive or targeted) or on the criteria to be used for the award of the grants. 

We find that without this information the Legislature cannot fully evaluate the proposals. For example, knowing whether a grant program will be administered competitively or in some other targeted manner is relevant in evaluating appropriate staffing levels. Furthermore, without identified criteria or priorities, it is not known whether the funding will be directed at the highest statewide priorities or what the projects will achieve in terms of protection, restoration, and providing recreational opportunities.

Funding Should Be Provided Through Legislation. While providing additional funds for river parkways and Sierra Nevada projects may have merit, we think that the Legislature should define these programs and set criteria to prioritize projects for funding. We therefore recommend that any funding for the projects be included in legislation defining the programs and establishing such criteria.

Proposition 50 Statewide Administration Proposal

The budget proposes $2.3 million from Proposition 50 bond funds and 5.3 positions for the Secretary for Resources for Proposition 50 related activities, including (1) accounting activities; (2) the development of a public Web site; and (3) coordination, audit expenses, and other administrative functions. We recommend the Secretary identify the department with which it will contract for accounting activities prior to budget hearings. Because the proposal for the Web site lacks an approved Feasibility Study Report as required under current state policy, we recommend denying funding for this aspect of the proposal. (Reduce Item 0540-001-6031 by $603,000.)

The budget proposes $2.3 million from Proposition 50 bond funds for the Secretary for Resources to provide overall coordination and administration of Proposition 50 expenditures. The proposal includes a number of different components, including (1) accounting activities ($388,000), (2) the development of a public Web site ($603,000), and (3) overall coordination, and audit expenses ($1.3 million). Below we raise issues with two components of this proposal, the implementation of the accounting activities and the development of the public Web site.

Accounting Activities Proposal Is Incomplete. The Secretary for Resources requests $388,000 to contract with another state department to provide accounting services for Proposition 50. The activities to be funded include tracking the fund balances for each allocation within Proposition 50 and appropriations for each department. This kind of accounting information is essential for legislative oversight. However, the Secretary for Resources was not able to specify which state department it will contract with to provide these accounting services. Without this information, the Legislature cannot evaluate if the proposal is feasible. We therefore recommend the Secretary identify prior to budget hearings the department with which it expects to contract for this important function.

Delete Funding for Public Website Project. The budget proposes $603,000 from Proposition 50 to develop a public Web site that would provide the geographic location of all Proposition 50 bond funded projects. Current state policy requires the Department of Finance to review and approve a Feasibility Study Report (FSR) for any information technology project prior to requesting funding in the budget. According to the Department of Finance, a FSR has not been completed for the proposed public website project. We therefore recommend deleting funding for this project.

Return to Resources Table of Contents, 2003-04 Budget Analysis