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With COVID-19 precautions making government accountability more challenging, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation’s annual Follow the Money report shows that taxpayers must remain vigilant against waste, fraud and abuse.

This year’s report, released on July 15 to coincide with 2020’s postponed Tax Day, includes a special section exposing instances of waste arising directly from the pandemic response. These examples range from a $1 billion mask deal, which was criticized by representatives from both parties, to a San Francisco program distributing free alcohol, cigarettes and drugs to the homeless.

Additional instances occurring in California’s conduct of “business as usual” include the state’s theft of $330 million meant for distressed homeowners, $242 million in extra funding granted to the state DMV due to their failure to properly prepare for the Real ID despite having years of warning, and $1 billion of taxpayer money CSU schools hid while lobbying for more money and raising tuition.

The examples exposed in the report were gleaned from official audits and media investigations.

“In this time of uncertainty, taxpayers must continue to hold Sacramento accountable for how they spend our hard-earned dollars,” said HJTF Chairman Jon Coupal. “The COVID crisis put people out of work around the state. If politicians are allowed to spend with impunity now, we can expect them to use their debts as yet another pretense for tax increases. Nothing could be more counterproductive to our recovery.”

The Follow the Money report is available at www.hjta.org/followthemoney.