Sacramento Spins its Wheels – This Time It’s Realignment (again)




Remember when Governor Schwarzenegger was swept into office by an electorate tired of an on-going state budget crisis and the unwillingness of the State Legislature and Governor Gray Davis to effectively deal with it? Remember how Schwarzenegger promised to blow up the boxes on the state’s organization charts, to ferret out waste and abuse and to bring efficiency to the State budget process?

As a step to try and keep those promises, on February 10, 2004 the Governor launched something called the California Performance Review to identify waste in state government and how to eliminate it. Here is a list of some reports and newspaper stories from that time:

Real Lives, Real Reforms: Improving Health and Human Services, Little Hoover Commission, May, 2004 – “Reorganizing departments, restructuring state and local responsibilities, reforming funding mechanisms and creating accountability will do more to reduce addiction, reduce crime and violence, and break the cycle of poverty than a hundred pilot projects.”

Government Overhaul Misses Key Deadline, Los Angeles Times, May 13,2004 – “”The governor’s planned state performance review to root out waste is now unlikely to come before the Legislature until next year, some say.” – “I think it ended up to be a much bigger job than anybody thought”- Senator Dick Ackerman

State of California Inc., Orange County Register, May 20, 2004 – “Schwarzenegger has plan to save billions by running government like a business. Skeptics say why it can’t always work.”

Big savings seen from streamlining, Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2004 – “The review is a top priority for governor.”

State reforms laid secretly – Orange County Register, July 10, 2004- “Governor reneges on promise to involve public in government reorganization despite an earlier pledge to throw open the doors and windows of government”.

Radical Revamp of State Bureaucracy – LA Times July 30, 2004 – Schwarzenegger’s panel says a restructured government would save $ 32 billion in 5 years.

Appointment: Last leg of streamlining – California Journal, October, 2004 – “Anne Sheehan, a veteran of state agency posts, was recently named executive director of the California Performance Review, as the team headed into the last of its statewide hearings on ways to cut government waste. It is part of her new role as a chief deputy director in the state Department of Finance (129,400)”

The California Journal report goes on to say that “after months of taking testimony on more than 1,200 recommendations for streamlining government, the California Performance Review will issue a final round of its recommendations to the governor by year’s end.”

Over 260 people worked on the California Performance Review, producing a final report of over 2,000 pages, and over 1400 recommendations. Among those recommendations were abolishing many state commissions and committees. Another recommendation was that the state should sell off surplus properties – this is apparently where the political bombshell idea of selling the Orange County fairgrounds was hatched – and we all know how well that has gone.

In one attempt to follow up on the CPR recommendations, the Governor issued a report in January of 2005, titled “Reforming California’s Boards and Commissions”. It recommended the elimination of 88 such bodies. Here are a few of them: Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs; Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Advisory Commission; California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology; Board of Behavioral Sciences; Building Standards Commission; Hearing Aid Dispensers Advisory Committee; High-Speed Rail Authority; Racial Profiling Panel; California Rural Health Policy Council; Small Business Reform Task Force; Structural Pest Control Board; Student Aid Commission; Commission on Uniform State Laws; Veterans’ Memorial Beautification and Enhancement Commission, California Mexican American; Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.

This list riled up thousands of Californians who saw their profession, their cause or issue being on the chopping block for reduced visibility and attention. They went to work lobbying against the elimination of their commission, committee, board, etc. There were few people besieging the legislature to eliminate these groups, and thousands pleading to them to not permit the Governor to move forward with this plan. The result was that very little happened.

Now we have a new Governor, Jerry Brown (actually he is both a new and an old Governor, but that’s another story) and he is proposing a realignment of programs, shifting some from State operation to local operation by California’s 58 counties. Counties are wary of this one – it seems to be a retread of Pete Wilson’s old realignment proposals. Veteran capital observers know that there is no time to propose a shifting of programs to another level of government like the time when the money has run out. And some counties, such as Orange, would most likely not like the thought of having to run more social and criminal justice programs, as they are traditional money pits, not to mention being unpopular with voters. And, can you imagine the groans that would emanate from our Board if realignment also brought taxing authority to the Supervisors in order to finance the realigned programs? Financing and running these programs is a thankless job, but someone has to do it – or do they?

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.