California taxpayers spending millions on cars and drivers for state officials

CHP

The state of California is spending a combined total of more than $1 million a year on providing cars and drivers for just six top government officials. [SF Chronicle]

Earlier this month, some observers of California politics took note when an unmarked car transporting state Controller Betty Yee was rear-ended. At the time, Yee was traveling with her husband in an unmarked CHP vehicle to the Democratic Party Executive Committee meeting in Oakland.

State records show, in 2016-2017, California taxpayers spent $297,169 on providing a car and driver to Yee. Jennifer Hanson, Yee’s spokesperson, said Yee typically receives CHP protection during her many public appearances across the state. The CHP protection is the price of having a “chief fiscal officer for the world’s fifth largest economy,” Hanson said.

In the current state budget, up to $360,000 is allocated to protecting Yee. The CHP protection budget for Treasurer John Chiang is $350,000 a year, followed by $260,000 for Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, $250,000 for Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, $200,000 for Secretary of State Alex Padilla and $150,000 for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The CHP provides cars and drivers for these six constitutional officers. The agency then bills the respective offices for the protection expenses. Combined, more than $1.6 million is currently budgeted for CHP protection of six of the state’s seven constitutional officers.

California’s seventh constitutional officer is the governor. The governor’s protection services funding comes straight from the state budget.

It is unclear how much money is spent on protecting the governor. In all, California spends $70 million a year on protecting everyone from the governor on down, as well as protecting public buildings and countering terrorism threats.

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