The top spenders were Caltrans, with $10.4 million for vehicles, and the DMV, with $1.7 million for furnishings. An additional $2 million went to conferences and meetings, report shows.

By Patrick McGreevy

February 8, 2010 | 8:49 p.m.

Reporting from Sacramento – Even as the state grappled with a budget crisis last year, bureaucrats spent nearly $45 million on new vehicles, almost $30 million on new furniture and more than $2 million on off-site meetings and conferences, a legislative panel has found.

The expenditures were outlined in a report released Monday by the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review, which plans to call on state agency managers to explain their spending at a hearing Wednesday.

“These expenses came despite an executive order from the governor last year for each state agency to cut costs and eliminate vehicle purchases unless they were for emergency purposes,” said Mark Martin, a consultant for the committee.

Some agencies said they spent only what was budgeted and necessary to do their jobs.

The report says that the California Air Resources Board spent $433,000 on furniture last year. Agency spokesman Stanley Young said much of the cost was for building cubicles for new employees at its El Monte office.

“We expanded our staff in a couple of areas, and we first checked with other government agencies to see if they had any surplus furniture,” Young said.

The agency with the biggest furnishings bill, according to the review, was the Department of Motor Vehicles, which spent $1.7 million. A spokesman said he could not comment because he had not seen the report.

Caltrans spent the most on vehicles last year, tallying $10.4 million in purchases, followed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, which spent $5.2 million, the committee reported. Representatives of those departments did not return calls seeking comment.

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