Part of the Bay Area News Group

How did California become ungovernable?

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 11:06 am in California budget.

Political gurus Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts answer that question today in an op-ed piece they wrote for their website, CalBuzz, and the Los Angeles Times.

It’s an excellent roadmap of the various factors that led California to the brink of the fiscal precipice it finds itself today.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • John W

    It’s an excellent article. However, I may now suffer PTSD over the image of Howard Jarvis dropping his pants for the press.

  • http://www.calbuzz.com jerry roberts

    John – Join the crowd. I’ve been suffering for 31 years from that “eyewitness to history” moment.

  • Mike F

    The article just offers excuses and puts most of the blame on Prop. 13. Without it, then we’d be making property owners pay for most everything – taxation without representation. I agree that the redrawing of boundaries is of great concern, but blaming term limits and cycles of the economy doesn’t make sense. I used to work in State Gov’t for 14 years, and the Agency I worked in always increased staffing in good times and then struggled with cutbacks and freezes in bad times. I always said, why can’t we just maintain a minimum level of staffing and contract out more in good times. Of course those that wanted to create more management and the protectionist unions would hear none of it, these comments just stifle your career in State Gov’t because you’re now a threat and not a clone.

    We’ve got too much government and have diluted the authority of our governor. Why do we need a Board of Equalization, Controller, UC Regents, and Superintendent of Public Instruction? These offices are part of the Executive Branch, so give their authority to the governor.

    Also, do we really need the multiple State agencies with overlapping responsibilities and unique political appointees that are sometimes not even appointed by the Governor? Take a look at just Cal-EPA, it has different multiple boards and departments under it (e.g. Air Resources Board, California Integrated Waste Management Board, State Water Resources Control Board, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Department of Pesticide Regulation), not to mention that the State Water Board and Air Resources Board also have multiple regional boards under them each with their own political appointees. Lots of waste in those State offices; most States do all these tasks with just one environmental regulatory group or at least something much less than us.

    Heck, even Caltrans is partially at the mercy of the California Transportation Commission (CTC). The CTC is another body of appointees with a small staff, which could just become part of Caltrans or Transportation Agency and have their priorities set by the governor.

    The 2/3rd vote is the only thing keeping the debate on the budget and forcing compromise. Without it, we’d have had even worse budgets in years past. Ever listen to Bob Brinker, Moneytalk on KGO? He always espouses a divided congress and president because you get better fiscal control with it. Now just apply this same thinking to California legislature and governor. “Might is not always right.”

    Professional politicians and special interests are our problems. Bring me campaign financing control, not the recent garbage being sponsored (http://www.ibabuzz.com/politics/2009/06/23/lawmakers-endorse-clean-money-ballot-measure/); “clean money” – yeah right, how weak it is.

    Nuff Said.

  • John W

    Mike F, I definitely agree with you on some points, such as needing a strong-executive system and massive streamlining of agencies. Heck, at this point, I’d go for a dictatorship! Agency streamlining is more of a issue than the number of state employees. Statistically, our state employee headcount is not out of line in comparison to other states, on a per capita basis. Don’t agree on Prop. 13. It’s filled with inequities and distortions in terms of state/local government relationships. Tax-restraint action was necessary, but it could have been done in a way that didn’t create the above-mentioned problems. Also, although I’m fairly new to the state, my understanding is that taxes were rolled back 57%. Combined with the 2% annual adjustment cap, that means somebody who still owns a home with a 1975 assessment (original owner or via inheritance) is paying little more now than they paid in 1978, and lots less if you adjust for inflation (general inflation, not housing). Also disagree on term limits and 2/3 vote. Divided government, in and of itself, is neither good or bad. Assuming you have fair districting, it should just ebb and flow in response to changing voter attitudes.