June 30, 2009, was fiscal meltdown day for the state of California. The Legislature had not passed a budget, tax revenues were plummeting, the state controller was paying bills with IOUs and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was poised to announce a third furlough day each month for state workers.
That very day the state Department of Transportation signed off on purchasing $1.7 million worth of new trucks and truck bodies.
That spending came on top of $2.6 million on truck expenditures by Caltrans during the previous five months, even as the state's fiscal crisis deepened. In February, the Department of General Services, state government's primary purchasing agent, spent another $1.2 million on 50 new hybrid Toyota Priuses.
A Bee investigation has found that most of those new vehicles — as well as scores more purchased in recent years — sit unused for months and even years.
A Caltrans spokesman blamed its purchase of unused new trucks on the state's "changing priorities" and "fluctuating workloads."
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