Analysis of the 2008-09 Budget Bill: Transportation

California Highway Patrol (2720)

The California Highway Patrol’s (CHP’s) core mission is to ensure safety and enforce traffic laws on state highways and county roads in unincorporated areas. The department also promotes traffic safety by inspecting commercial vehicles, as well as inspecting and certifying school buses, ambulances, and other specialized vehicles. The CHP carries out a variety of other mandated tasks related to law enforcement, including investigating vehicular theft and providing backup to local law enforcement in criminal matters. In addition, the department provides protective services and security for state employees and property. Since September 11, 2001, CHP has played a major role in the state’s enhanced antiterror activities.

The CHP’s overall level of staffing is about 11,000 positions. The department is comprised of uniformed (sworn) and nonuniformed (nonsworn) personnel, with uniformed personnel accounting for approximately 7,600 positions, or 70 percent, of total staff.

The budget proposes $1.9 billion in support for CHP in 2008–09, about $49 million (2.6 percent) above estimated current–year expenditures. The increase reflects proposed increases for employee compensation, patrol officer staffing, and continued implementation of the enhanced radio communication system, partly offset by decreases, most notably for anticipated savings from officer vacancies.

Most of CHP’s budget is funded from the Motor Vehicle Account (MVA), which derives its revenues primarily from vehicle registration and driver license fees. For 2008–09, MVA funds would comprise nearly 90 percent of CHP’s support costs.

CHP Unable to Fill Requested Officer Positions

For 2008–09, the department requests authority to hire an additional 120 road patrol officers, as well as $4 million to fund 44 new staff to support the officers. We recommend the Legislature reject the proposal because based on the department’s own estimates, it will not be able to fill the requested positions in the budget year. (Reduce Item 2720–001–0044 by $4 million.)

Budget Proposal. The Governor’s budget requests $21.6 million for 120 patrol officers, and 44 staff—11 uniformed and 33 nonuniformed—to manage and provide administrative support to the officers. The request would bring CHP patrol officer positions to 6,493 in 2008–09 and subsequently to 6,543 in 2009–10. However, due to the high number of officer vacancies at CHP (discussed below), the budget also proposes a $40 million reduction in the department’s funding level to reflect savings from anticipated vacant officer positions. The net effect of these two proposals is that for 2008–09 there would be approximately 300 unfunded officer positions (including the proposed 120 new officer positions) in CHP. While the budget does not provide funding for the proposed officer positions, it does provide funding (about $4 million) for the 44 support positions.

Background. Over the past two years, the Legislature has added 360 patrol officers and 80 staff to support those officers. Information provided by CHP shows that the department has not been able to fill its new officer positions. At the time this analysis was prepared, the department had approximately 450 vacant officer positions out of a total of 6,423 authorized officer positions. According to CHP, the high number of officer vacancies reflects a combination of factors, most notably the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified candidates.

Analyst’s Concern and Recommendation. Absent the requested positions, the department will begin 2008–09 with approximately 400 vacant officer positions. At CHP’s current officer attrition rate (26 per month), an estimated 312 additional officer positions will become vacant during the fiscal year, bringing the total vacant officer positions to 712. According to CHP, it expects to graduate 399 cadets from the academy; thus, ending the fiscal year with 313 vacant officer positions. As such, the department will not be able to fill the requested positions in the budget year. In fact, CHP likely would not fill its current vacancies—and begin to fill the requested positions—until 2010–11. Although the department acknowledges that it will not be able to fill the new positions in the budget year, it nonetheless indicates that the additional position authority is a priority. We find no justification for providing the additional officer positions in 2008–09. We therefore recommend the Legislature reject the request for 120 new officer positions.

The purpose of the 44 support positions is to handle the higher supervisory and administrative workload associated with adding more officer positions. Consistent with our recommendation to reject the proposed officer positions, we also recommend the Legislature reject the requested support positions and delete the amount requested to support these positions ($4 million).

No Report on Tactical Alerts

We recommend the Legislature delete the $10 million budgeted for CHP tactical alerts in 2008–09 because the department has failed to provide information to the Legislature justifying this level of proposed spending. (Reduce Item 2720–001–0044 by $10 million.)

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, CHP officers were placed on 12–hour shifts, or “tactical alerts,” to enhance preparedness and provide an immediate increase in the level of security services. Since that time, the department has retained some funding in its budget for a similar tactical response should the need arise. The Governor’s budget proposes to continue the funding at $10 million.

Last year, the Legislature adopted budget bill language requiring the department to report by December 31 of each year on its prior–year tactical alert activities. The purpose of the report was to provide the Legislature information upon which to determine the appropriate level of funding for the coming fiscal year. At the time this analysis was prepared, the Legislature had not received the department’s report on tactical alerts. Absent the required information, there is no basis to justify the funding level for tactical alerts. We therefore recommend the Legislature delete the funding.

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