Denham wants to cut waste board members

December 9, 2008 6:31:05 PM PST
The state's cash situation is getting worse. Controller John Chung announced on Tuesday evening that November revenue is down $1.3 billion, with over $600 million of that downturn because of a decline in the sales tax. One lawmaker wants to cut waste by going after those who watch the garbage business.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board oversees the state's trash and works with cities and counties to improve recycling rates. State Senator Jeff Denham proposed to get rid of the six board members because he says they're a waste of money.

"It pays $132,000 a year to meet a couple times a month. Most boards pay about $100 per diem for each meeting. So this is certainly a plumb position," said State Senator Jeff Denham (R) of Merced.

The executive director says his board is funded with the fees assessed at landfills and uses no taxpayer money. And it does more than just meet a few times a month.

"They're out visiting landfills, visiting recycling opportunities, interacting with cities and counties that recycle. They're very engaged in the work of the management of solid waste in the state in the state of California," said Mark Leary, from the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

During these tough budget times, critics have said those trash fees could be used for the state's other environmental responsibilities. The proposal to abolish Integrated Waste comes at a time when it's suffering from an image problem.

The board has become known as a vehicle for political patronage for former staffers and out-of-work politicians.

Chairwoman Margo Reid Brown was Governor Schwarzenegger's scheduler. Termed-out politicians Sheila Kuehl who championed universal healthcare, Carole Midgen who's known more for her erratic behavior than policy, and John Laird who was lead budget negotiator -- all got recent appointments to fill the latest three vacancies on the board. Laird says he is qualified for the job.

"25 years ago, as Mayor of Santa Cruz, I presided over one of the first curbside recycling plans in the state. So I have long experience," said John Laird, a new board member.

"It's very clear this is more the nature of patronage than a legitimate advancement of environmental policy," said Jon Coupal, from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Senator Denham thinks the waste policy duties can be transferred to another government arm like the California Environmental Protection Agency.


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