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Lawmakers request audit of 9/11 fund, other plates

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POSTED August 1, 2012 9:15 p.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A bipartisan group of lawmakers has formally requested a detailed review of the California specialty license plate program, the first in the program's 20-year history.

The request comes in response to an investigation by The Associated Press that found little oversight of the $250 million raised since the program was authorized.

The AP also found that Gov. Jerry Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had taken $3 million raised by a memorial plate created in honor of the victims of the 2001 terror attacks. The money was used to help close the state's budget deficit.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to authorize a review of the memorial plate program and a random sample of the 10 other specialty plates, which include the Lake Tahoe and California Firefighter plate programs.

"Recent media accounts have raised questions as to whether the moneys in the funds are being spent appropriately," the lawmakers wrote.

DeSaulnier's office sent a copy of the letter to the AP on Wednesday.

In May, Brown asked the administration's Department of Finance to audit the plates program. He said he would use the results of the review, which is ongoing, to decide when to pay back the $3 million loan from the memorial plate fund.

The AP review found there is virtually no independent oversight of how organizations spend the money. Organizations and agencies participating in the specialty plate program must report annually to the state Department of Motor Vehicles about money collected and the percentage spent to promote the specialty plates, which isn't supposed to exceed 25 percent of the revenue.

Other than that, there is no direct oversight. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has never examined the program, nor has the state auditor's office.

The committee will consider ordering the audit during a hearing next week.

 

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