The CA Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control Costs Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

The State Capitol building in SacramentoEXPAND
The State Capitol building in Sacramento

We can't decide if this qualifies as irony or just Alanis Morissette irony. In 1984, the California State Senate created the Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control in State Government to um, control costs, we think?

The commission costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, with little to show for itself other than a handful of reports. 

Al Jazeera America's America Tonight aired a segment last night called "Money for Nothing," about the proliferation of "hundreds of obscure committees, commissions and boards, each packed with staffers and appointees.”

To wit: the Bipartisan Internet Political Practices Commission, the Commission on Uniform State Laws and the California Cling Peach Growers Advisory Board. Some are perfectly legitimate government committees. Others are industry groups who meet together under the aegis of state government, because if they did so in private they'd risk violating antitrust laws.

And others are just a waste of taxpayer money. Like the Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control, which paid its executive director, a longtime Sacramento staffer named Melissa Kludjian, $116,928 a year, The commission also rung up various expenses, according to the Al Jazeera report, like a $70,000 American Express bill to ... do something?

The CA Senate Advisory Commission on Cost Control Costs Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars (2)
Al Jazeera

A public records act request by Al Jazeera turned up only two meeting agendas since 2010. One agenda item read: "Make the Legislature aware the Commission exists."

Even that simple task appeared beyond the powers of Kludjian and the rest of the commission – no one seems to have any idea what the commission does. (Kludjian recently retired from her post, which has apparently gone unfilled. This reporter would like to hereby throw his hat in the ring.)

The commission's website, a study in minimalism, offers few clues. One page lists a number of reports; the commission's most recent work is a hodgepodge. Since 2012, it has commissioned five reports: two on prison procurement, two on veterans programs. Nothing was published from 2005 to 2012.

So just how many of these vaguely wasteful committees are there?

Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont College, who's heavily featured in the Al Jazeera report, says there's no way of knowing, but the number of pointless California government committees and commissions could number anywhere from 10 to 80. 

The existence of these commissions is, of course, nothing new. In 2004, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger formed – what else – a commission, to reorganize the state government and make it more efficient. The commission produced a report that, among other things, recommended the elimination of 88 boards and commissions.

But the recommendations were largely ignored.

Says Johnson: "Every one of these commissions has some advocate."


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