Tax Money Well Spent?

I don’t mind paying taxes…really I don’t.  I will gladly pay taxes for essential services like police, fire and road maintenance.  I’m also fine with taxes for education and to take care of the helpless among us.  But I’ve got to say my blood boils when I hear reports that have recently surfaced here in Washington State.  A local TV station has revealed in a series of investigative reports massive abuse and waste in our State Ferry System, and the fact that welfare recipients have been using their state issued credit cards to withdraw assistance money at casinos, bars and bingo halls.

“Waste On The Water”

KING 5 television in Seattle found during its investigations, unbelievable waste and gaming of the system by Washington State Ferry employees including engineers who collected up to $700,000 over their annual base pay by assigning themselves carefully planned overtime:

Forty men have held the position of Staff Chief Engineer since the year 2000. The KING 5 Investigators added up how much the group made above their base salaries since that time. The number?  Nearly $10 million.

Others were paid for travel time and mileage between home and work because they were working on “special projects” for 12 to 15 years!  This special perk has cost taxpayers millions over the last decade.

In addition, a huge sum of money has been squandered in the procurement of generators that for technical reasons could not be installed on the ferries:

Ferry design engineers conducted studies before ordering the new generators but they made a big mistake. They didn’t do enough testing to realize the equipment would be too powerful to use on the boats.  …In 2006 WSF ordered nine generators from the (manufacturer).  So far the state has paid $1 million for four of the nine.  When problems cropped up, the state threw more money at the project.  In 2007, a million dollars was spent on a design change.  Last year, they spent $100,000 on consultants hired to find ways to fix the mistake.  So far the cost to taxpayers is $2.1 million. That number could grow to millions more to pay (the manufacturer) for work already performed.  In 2008, ferry engineers began to suspect the generators were too powerful to be used. The state hired (an engineering firm) to conduct an analysis.  In February 2009, (that firm) reported…that, indeed, the switchgear on the boats could not handle that powerful of a generator.  State ferries didn’t scrap the project just yet. They hired another consultant… to look for ways to allow the generators to interface safely…  On April 28, 2010, (that firm) reported to the ferry system that nothing could be done:  “There is no viable, economically feasible device or technology that can safely (fix the problem)”.  It wasn’t until three months later, in July, that state ferries officially told (the manufacturer) to pull the plug and stop all production.

The State is still on the hook for the costs of these generators, and I’m guessing will spend more time and money in court before it is all sorted out.  With this level of incompetence, it is no wonder the Ferry System faces a $1 billion dollar budget shortfall.

“Grocery Money Gamble”

This State pays out cash assistance to its most needy in the form of ATM cards.  More than 68,000 of them!  Imagine everyone’s shock when KING 5 revealed that these cards were being used to withdraw large sums of money at casinos, bars and bingo halls across the State:

In one month alone, records show withdrawals of welfare cash made through ATMs at 113 casinos and card rooms.  The numbers may be surprising to taxpayers, but not to one of the Department of Social and Health Services top administrators.  “This is cash and gambling is an activity that some people are used to. So from that respect it’s not anything that surprises me,” said DSHS deputy administrator Troy Hutson.  “I don’t know if someone who is withdrawing money at a casino is actually using it to gamble,” said Hutson. “I don’t have enough information to make that determination.”

I don’t know how much information a typical state employee needs.  A person has to withdraw money from an ATM while standing in a casino.  I guess they are just picking up a little something for the kid’s breakfast in the morning.  Personally, I don’t think anyone on public assistance belongs in a casino in the first place.  Last year, taxpayer money withdrawn from casino ATMs totaled $2 million dollars!  When confronted with the facts, DSHS’s response was that it would be too difficult or costly to lock welfare cards out of ATMs in questionable locations.  Wrong again:  One casino owner did it for free with a brief phone call.

Washington State doesn’t have a monopoly on this abuse.  California and Michigan are also dealing with similar waste and corruption.  Investigate your own state and demand accountability.  And the next time some Progressive accuses you of not wanting to pay taxes, tell them as I do:  Our Government doesn’t deserve another single penny until it cleans up the waste, fraud and stupidity that misuses the taxes we already pay.

Originally posted on 09/26/2010 at ConservativeCompass.com