SACRAMENTO — A former California state parks employee says she told state attorneys that her department was hiding about $20 million in a special fund several months before officials announced discovering the surplus money, according to a sworn declaration filed in court Tuesday.
The development is the latest revelation in a budget scandal that has state officials on the defensive and threatens to undermine Gov. Jerry Brown's push for a voter-approved tax increase.
The court declaration from Cheryl Taylor, a former parks employee, raises further questions about what state officials knew, when they knew it, and what action, if any, they took before the California Natural Resources Agency revealed the hidden pot of money in July.
Such special funds contribute to the state's general fund budget each year as lawmakers take millions of dollars in loans from the funds to close budget deficits.
To plug this year's budget gap, the governor proposed closing 70 state parks to save $33 million over two years, prompting a scramble by local governments and nonprofits to raise money and keep most of the parks open this summer. Brown also has pushed a message of fiscal responsibility as he has urged voters to increase the state's revenue by approving a tax hike in November.