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EDITORIAL: How to burn tax dollars and have little to show for it

The progressive paradise of California has spent $24 billion over the past five years to attack homelessness. Not only has the problem gotten worse, state and local government officials haven’t bothered to track where the money went. Is anybody surprised?

Last week, the state auditor released a long-awaited report on “Homelessness in California.” The findings confirm that the Democrats who run the Golden State are often more interested in political preening than looking for solutions that actually work.

“The state doesn’t have current information on the ongoing costs and results of its homelessness programs,” CalMatters reported, “because the agency tasked with gathering that data — the California Interagency Council on Homelessness — has analyzed no spending past 2021, according to the report.”

California has a vast political-bureaucratic complex dedicated to homelessness — no fewer than nine state agencies and 30 programs, according to CalMatters — yet the state’s political class seems wholly uninterested in determining whether spending billions in taxpayer money under the guise of getting people get off the streets does indeed get people off the streets.

Members of the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness issued a written response to the audit, claiming they were unable to perform their duties because … wait for it … they didn’t have enough money. You can’t make this stuff up.

The legislative Republican who requested the audit sensibly recommended that the state freeze “new investments” when it comes to homelessness until lawmakers can figure out where all the money has gone. Predictably, this brought a rebuke from a Democratic colleague.

“I don’t think it’s a time to stop,” state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-Santa Clara, said. “I would be disappointed personally, professionally as a state senator, if the governor or Legislature negotiated away this year’s investment in homelessness.”

The senator might as well have endorsed lighting billions of dollars on fire as a means of helping the state’s homeless survive the winter nights.

In the meantime, homelessness in the state has grown by 53 percent over the past decade, the Los Angeles Times reports, as Sacramento mindlessly showers more and more money into a failed system.

“These audit results are a wake-up call,” said state Sen. Roger Niello, a Republican from Rosedale, “for a shift toward solutions that prioritize self-sufficiency and cost-effectiveness.” He might also advocate for dismantling the hyperactive regulatory apparatus that makes it virtually impossible for California to add enough housing stock to dent its shortage.

All of those suggestions will fall on deaf ears in the one-party progressive Eden. But Californians can’t complain. They got what they voted for.

This commentary initially appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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