What does California need? Reform, reform, reform

Sunne Wright McPeak

Sunne Wright McPeak

California’s increasingly precarious financial predicament will require major reforms of a wide variety, agreed  state leaders and former elected officials who spoke to the Contra Costa Council this morning during its annual CCUSA conference in Concord.

They blamed — not in equal parts — term limits, the two-thirds voting threshhold for budgets and taxes, campaign finance reform, partisan primaries, polemic politics in Sacramento and the Legislature’s inability to focus on solutions that work.

Ex=Business, Transportatoin and Housing Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak even went so far as to diss her former boss, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling his decision to roll back the vehicle license fee a terrible one that has helped contribute to at least $6 billion of the state’s structural deficit. McPeak has in the past been very circumspect in her comments about the governor and the three years she worked for him.

Asked how she woudl fix the $41 billion state budget gap, McPeak told the audience she would take three years in order to avoid irreparable damage to schools and social services. But she would hike the sales tax for two or three years and reinstate the vehicle license fee and permanently dedicate it to city and county governments.

McPeak called it a distraction to focus on the two-thirds requirement in the legislature to pass a budget or a tax hike.

“I don’t want ot get to a bad budget faster,” she said.

Instead, McPeak said she would shift the state’s full attention to growing the economy as a means to restore public funds in conjunction with a full analysis of existing state programs’ effectiveness.

Willie Brown

Willie Brown

Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s reform ideas included an end to term limits and called it absurd that the two-thirds voting requirements have been imposed by a majority vote given the fact that these rules would never receive a two-thirds vote.

As for campaign finance, he called for a repeal of much of what he referred to as “so-called” reforms.

“In my time in public office, there were no such things as independent expenditures, he said. ” I was the independent expenditure. The public is entitled ot know who gave money and how much and how it was spent. These modern campaign reforms are bullshit. It conceals what is really happening and never really know the source of the money.”

Click through to next page for recommendations offered by anothe speaker, former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg.

Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla

Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla

Former Democratic Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg, who often ran afoul of his party’s leadership when he partnered with other moderates, had these suggestions:

Establish open primaries in order to allow moderate candidates into office that are not beholden to special interests to get re-elected.

Revert to pre-Proposition 13 distribution of dollars in order to allow local governments more control of how tax dollars are spent.

Create a commission to evaluate the effectiveness of state programs.

Move to a part-time legislature and restrict members to 15 or 20 bills per session.

Consolidate costly duplicative local government entities including overlapping city and school district and water district agencies hat “we can no longer afford.”

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • John W

    Canciamilla has some good ideas. Along with open primaries and part-timing the legislature, I would go unicameral. As for the commission, I had been thinking of something analogous to the federal base closure commission to dig into every nook and cranny of state goverment, zero-basing and sunsetting everything. No ballot initiative should be allowed to lock in anything for more than 10 years, obligating future generations who had no say in the matter.

  • nenebird

    Hearing Sunne or Willie talk about what is wrong with CA is laughable. First culprit – partisan politics. Politics of extremes makes a budget impossible. Each party only looks out for its campaign contributors, not the citizens.

    Willie is responsible for the term limits all by hisself. He abused his power so much, we did an initiative to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    2/3 rule: gee it has helped us stay solvent but I suspect the problem would be much worse if we didn’t have it. Look at many of the other states who have financial trouble, they manage to curb their spending and pass a budget.

    I support the open primary idea, its a winner. Its not the taxes that were cut; its the spending that is out of control. I suspect even with the VLF at its old levels, we’d still be in trouble. If one ever watches the legislature in action, they have no clue what any of the bills they pass will cost.

    We have the most inept politicians in the Us. Our bonds are rated at the same level as Louisiana. Yes, the Hurricane Katrina, ‘can’t find their way of a paper bag’ Lousiana..

  • Arne Simonsen

    Sadly it all depends on whose definition of “reform” we’re using.

    As Nenebird mentioned, California would be much worse off if it were not for the 2/3rds requirement for a budget and tax increases!