California's stimulus watchdog calls for 'common sense' in job reports

The state watchdog for federal stimulus dollars said Tuesday that state agencies should use "common sense" when describing how many new jobs the money has created.

Laura Chick, California inspector general for American Recovery Act Funds, also said in a meeting with The Bee editorial board that the federal government must improve its reporting criteria to ensure that job figures are accurate.

States are required to report the number of jobs saved or created by federal stimulus dollars on a quarterly basis.

The first report, which showed stimulus money led to 640,000 more jobs through October, has faced criticism for over-representing the impact of federal dollars, especially as politicians – including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – tout the money's benefits.

California's total of 110,185 jobs has sparked questions in several cases, including figures reported by California State University and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Many areas of state government are relying on federal stimulus to replace budget dollars that normally would have come from the state budget.

In all cases, officials said they followed federal stimulus reporting guidelines.

"But what they forgot about, in my opinion, was to apply common sense," Chick said.

The CSU system claimed it had saved 26,156 jobs with $268.5 million in stimulus money. That represents more than half of all CSU employees statewide, as well as more jobs than were reportedly saved in Texas and 44 other states.

The Bee determined this month that 26,156 CSU workers were not at risk of being laid off.

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