SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown broke his silence Wednesday on the discovery of hidden money at California's cash-strapped state parks department.
The Democratic governor downplayed the scandal, saying it was the first time he's seen government get in trouble for saving money.
"When somebody comes and says, 'Hey, guess what, we have some money over here,' that's better than saying, 'Whoops we don't have the money,'" he said.
Nonprofit groups were blindsided last week by reports that state parks accounts hold $53 million more than was previously disclosed, even as they raised money to keep 70 state parks open past a July 1 closure deadline.
Brown quipped at an unrelated news conference Wednesday that "more money is better than less money." But he also said the state will look into the secret parks money and at all special funds.
The debacle erupted days after a report surfaced involving secret parks department vacation time buyouts of more than $271,000. The disclosure led to the parks director's resignation, an investigation by the attorney general, and an audit by Brown's Department of Finance.
Lawmakers are also planning to look into department finances when they return from their monthlong summer recess on Aug. 6.
The revelation came as Brown is trying to lobby support for a November ballot measure that would temporarily increase the state sales tax and income tax for incomes over $250,000 a year.
Opponents of the tax hike are framing the parks scandal as a reason to vote down the measure.
"Brown's downplaying of the park scandal tells you just how cavalier he is with taxpayer money," California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said in a statement.