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Governance Reform

There’s a lot of talk in Sacramento and around the state these days about budget and governance reform. That’s good – with an unemployment rate about 12 percent, a Legislature who’s approval ratings in today’s Field Poll hover at 16 percent and a Capital filled primarily with well-meaning people who lack the tools they need for success, it is time for substantive, specific and comprehensive reforms.

So where to start? Here are some ideas:

First, change the state budget process.

* Move to performance-based budgeting, where what the state spends of our tax dollars is actually measured against whether it efficiently and effectively produces the outcomes we were promised.

* Emphasize strong oversight of existing expenditures. Some states, like Texas, legislate one year and focus on over-sight of existing programs the next year. California should consider a similar system.

* Create a Sunset Review process to determine whether there is a continuing need for existing commissions, agencies and programs.

* Require the state auditor to participate in oversight hearings and report on whether past recommendations were enacted.

Second, reform the initiative process.

* Require initiatives that propose new spending to specifically propose how to pay for that spending.

* Require that one-time revenues only be used for one-time, rather than on-going, purposes.

Third, unshackle well-meaning legislators from the power of political party caucuses and the special interests that fund them.

* Pass the Open Primary Initiative on this year’s June election ballot. Specifically, let’s change the state primary election nomination process for Congressional, Statewide and Legislative Elections to allow all voters to choose any candidate, and the top two candidates become the nominees for the November general election run-off, regardless of their political party.

There is a lot of talk about reforming the way our state government functions today, or more accurately, does not function. When people talk to you of reform, demand specifics rather than generalities.

These are a few of the specifics I would like to see in any comprehensive reform proposals seeking my support. Equally important, what are your priorities? Tell your Legislators and the Governor the reforms you want to see. This isn’t a time to take pitch forks to Sacramento. Rather, it is a time we all pitched in to save and strengthen our state. Never forget, our Democracy was not created for us to sit on the sidelines. Get engaged and move things forward.

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