California's victims restitution fund running on empty
Feb 21, 2011
California's fund to help victims of crime is teetering on insolvency, with state officials this week scheduled to consider several cost-cutting moves to keep the account from going broke by next year.
The state restitution fund is the payer of last resort for crime victims and the oldest such program in the country. It has covered more than $2 billion worth of doctor's bills, burial costs and other expenses from hundreds of thousands of claims since it began in 1965.
....Victims advocates point to other causes for the fund's troubles: money taken by other parts of state government.
In 2008, lawmakers took $80 million from the fund. Of that, lawmakers classified $45.2 million as payback for a 1994 general fund bailout of the restitution fund. The rest was a shift to the general fund.
"We've gotten the impression they will not be paying it back," said Phillip Ung, a spokesman for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Lawmakers also have made the victims aid the source of money for unrelated programs. About $11 million annually goes to the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention program known as CalGRIP and a state task force targeting Internet crimes against children.
The claims board's administrative costs also have come under scrutiny.
A December 2008 state audit found that overhead consumed 26 percent to 41 percent of restitution fund spending from July 2001 through June 2005.
A 2008 report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said the agency's administrative costs seemed to exceed those in eight other states.