The San Diego Union-Tribune
In his State of the State address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger coined some colorful phrases to accompany his pledge to make California’s government more responsive. Mocking the state’s cumbersome bureaucracy as a “mastodon frozen in time,” the governor vowed to “blow up (government organizational) boxes” rather than merely move them around.
He created the California Performance Review and charged its 21 members with conducting a comprehensive examination of state government with a view toward streamlining agencies and programs to save money. The panel’s recommendations are being kept a secret until the state budget is settled. Why? According to the governor’s office, to keep the issue from becoming a political football.
Does the administration seriously believe that it can pull off a massive reorganization of state government without igniting a political firestorm? Particularly given the institutional inertia that for decades has prevented any meaningful government overhauls.
CPR co-chairman William Hauck was on the money when he characterized California as having “a 19th century structure of government trying to work in the 21st century.” Hauck, who heads the California Business Roundtable, speaks from decades of experience in Sacramento.
An obvious target for the panel should be the state’s 300-plus boards and commissions, some of which are duplicative in mission while several are downright dysfunctional.
Take the Integrated Waste Management Board, for example, whose members receive a cool $117,818 annually. Earlier this year, the board was supposed to meet to ponder a landfill permit for Kern County, a garbage transfer site in San Bruno and grants to aid rural landowners with waste cleanup. Three successive meetings never materialized, bringing to 20 the number of times the board failed to gather in the space of four months.
Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is exactly right when he angrily portrays part-time panel members being paid executive salaries as political pork. Especially when many of these very well-paid members have outside jobs, sometimes with firms or agencies that do business with the state.
The myriad boards and commissions are stocked with former officeholders, their relatives, friends and associates. Departing governors routinely find a cushy spot for loyalists in search of a paycheck. Political patronage has become such a part of the fabric in Sacramento that few believe that any reform will unravel it.
If Schwarzenegger is serious about attacking this problem, he is going to buck heads with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle who help pass out the appointments. The governor might also ask himself why he selected Rosario Marin for the waste management board when she has no evident experience in waste management. She is, however, a former U.S. treasurer, and unsuccessful Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat.