SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The state controller and the Department of Finance are $2.3 billion apart in their calculations of how much money is in hundreds of special funds kept by various state agencies, officials acknowledged Friday.
An examination of more than 500 special fund accounts, like the $54 million discrepancy in state parks money, showed a $2.3 billion "discrepancy" between state controller and Department of Finance numbers, according to the San Jose Mercury News ( http://bit.ly/MPdkls
No one checks the controller's figures, so the difference wasn't caught.
The analysis showed at least 17 accounts appear to have significantly more reserve cash than what was reported to the Finance Department.
The violent crime victim restitution fund, for instance, was off by $29 million, and a low-cost child health insurance fund was off by $30 million. The fund that rewards people who recycle bottles and cans was $113 million off.
State finance officials operate under a longtime honor system. The controller's figures were never checked and oversight groups didn't catch the discrepancies even though the numbers are publicly available on two state websites.
As a result, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature used the Finance Department's lower $8.8 billion figure when they approved the California budget last month.
State Senate budget chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said special funds "clearly have not been getting enough attention."
Dozens of state departments told the governor's budget aides earlier this year that they had a combined $8.8 billion left in "rainy day" reserves for their special fund accounts. The controller's office, however, said there was $11.1 billion in cash reserves for the accounts.
"That does not necessarily translate into hidden funds," Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. "In many cases, there will very likely be legitimate accounting reasons for the difference in those funds."