Comptroller John Liu explained his ongoing battle against waste and “back door” taxes in city government in his second appearance this year before the Manhattan Beach Community Group.
The group invited Liu to its December 1 meeting to receive their annual “Friend of Manhattan Beach” award, honoring him for his “honesty, warmth and tireless work” on behalf of residents. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, last year’s honoree, presented the award.
After thanking the group, Liu discussed some of his office’s initiatives, and his continuing goal to ensure “government is never forgetful that we are here to serve the people. That means that there’s got to be full accountability.”
The comptroller is taking aim at the government’s many ill-conceived contracts, saying that much of the malignant waste in our budgets has to do with lack of oversight over the process.
He pointed to the Economic Development Corporation as one of his targets, saying they’ve collected money for city coffers, but have yet to turn it over. He also bashed the highly-publicized CityTime contract – a computerized payroll system that has ballooned from a $63 million to nearly $700 million. Despite pressure from the mayor, Liu has refused to extend the contract and dole out additional funds, instead ordering them to complete the work the city has paid for before he shows them the door.
“At a time like this, when we talk of service reductions and the mayor talks about laying people off, there needs to be an earnest discussion about all the contracts with outside consultants,” he told the MBCG. “Do we really need all these consultants? I have no doubt that the answer is no.”
To pay for its misguided priorities and wasteful spending, Liu said the city has been relying on “back door taxes,” such as ballooning fees for services and other hidden revenue generators. He listed as examples the ever-growing water rates and parking tickets “issued with perhaps a little too much zeal.”
“It’s an indirect back door tax, and it leads to waste. You have to be upfront with people about taxes,” he said. Not being transparent “leads to less accountability, [and] it leads to suboptimal budgetary decisions.”
Liu last spoke before the Manhattan Beach Community Group during a Town Hall in June, where he laid out his office’s priorities to support small businesses, reform the pension system and to ensure education spending is based on reliable data, not politicized school report cards.