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Phil Matier: Cash-Strapped California Spending Thousands On iPads For State Workers

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) - Controversy is brewing in Sacramento, over the hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds apparently used to buy tech products for state employees.

Records show that state agencies have spent $423,000 on iPads during the 19 months since Gov. Jerry Brown declared that his administration would do away with cell phones and cars for government workers.

But, state records reveal that the departments of Veterans Affairs, Water Resources, and General Services, as well as the Board of Equalization and Caltrans, are among the agencies that have made iPad purchases during that time.

Tulare Republican Assemblywoman Connie Conway branded the purchases, "the kind of double standard that outrages taxpaying citizens and explains why they don't trust us."

KCBS, CBS 5 and SF Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

The governor's office has already ordered that 11 of the Apple devices purchased by the Department of Motor Vehicles be handed over.

An administration spokesman also suggested that some iPad buys were justified because they were being used by doctors, engineers and other state-employed professionals who would otherwise rely on potentially pricier laptops. He did acknowlede that, in many cases, the devices are little more than a luxury that sends the wrong message during hard times - not to mention an election year.

The governor is banking on public support at the ballot box this November for Proposition 30, the sales and income tax increase initiative that he maintains will help to balance California's budget and stave off further cuts to state programs and services.

There were early signs that voters were leaning in favor of Prop 30 .  But, critics seemed to gather some ammunition in their fight against the measure when several financially-fueled state scandals came to light; namely, the soaring cost of California's High-Speed Rail project and word of a $54 million budget surplus after 70 state parks were ordered shuttered.

It's a safe bet that political pundits on both sides of the debate were anxious to see how news of the iPads would impact the Prop 30 campaign.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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