State reform groups merge and revive ballot measure

Two state reform groups with disparate timelines have combined forces and resurrected a budget  initiative using what every successful ballot measure needs: Cash.

With matching $3 million pledges, eccentric billionaire Nicolas Berggruen and his Think Long Committee will join California Forward, a reform organization led by former Contra Costa Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

The Think Long Committee last week announced it would postpone its reform initiative until 2014 and California Forward has struggled to find the money to put on an expensive statewide signature gathering effort and mount a campaign.

The merger’s baby is the Government Performance and Accountability Act and its target is the November 2012 election.

The act requires state and local governments to produce budgets that spell out in detail the expected results from every dollar spent and publish an annual account of their performance.

It also allows local governments to band together, write a community strategy plan and if the legislature approve it, the local partnership will receive regulatory relief to carry it out.

“It’s a reboot,” McPeak told 250 community, business and political leaders gathered in Concord today for the Contra Costa Business Council’s annual daylong conference. “California needs a new operating system.”

Read on for the full release.


Common-sense Government Performance and Accountability Act will reform state government & budget to give local communities and public a larger voice

SACRAMENTO—Today, two leading independent, nonpartisan citizen organizations dedicated to reforming and improving state government in California announced that they are joining forces in support of the Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA), a ballot measure expected to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.


The Think Long Committee of California and the California Forward Action Fund have reached a formal agreement to partner in leading the GPAA campaign effort and provide expertise, organization and financial resources to ensure its success.

The Government Performance and Accountability Act would make popular, common-sense improvements to California’s dysfunctional system of budget and governance, bringing state government closer to the people and giving local communities a stronger voice.

The measure, which was filed with the Attorney General by the California Forward Action Fund in November, would do the following:

  • Create a two-year state budget cycle;
  • Require performance reviews of all state agencies;
  • Mandate that all bills be published at least three days prior to a legislative vote;
  • Prohibit the Legislature from creating expenditures of greater than $25 million unless offset by spending cuts or identified funding streams;
  • Require performance goals in state and local government; and,
  • Provide incentives for local governments to work together to streamline government and improve results.

Initial polling shows that the measure and its individual provisions receive support from a significant majority of Californians.


The measure is consistent with the reform, accountability and transparency principles set forth in Think Long’s “Blueprint to Renew California,” a list of bipartisan recommendations for fixing state government and rebooting California’s future, released in November 2011.  The measure also would implement recommendations developed by California Forward through a public stakeholder process that identified best practices and successful community-based programs.


Last week, Think Long announced that it was moving its comprehensive tax and revenue reform proposal to the 2014 ballot, but, at the same time, intended to aggressively support other reform measures already filed for 2012.


“The Government Performance and Accountability Act perfectly reflects both the growing public demand in California for a more accountable government and Think Long’s mission of strengthening California’s democracy for the long term,” said Nicolas Berggruen, Chair of the Think Long Committee.  “We are looking forward to working together with California Forward to take historic steps to increase public confidence in government and are prepared to dedicate ample time and resources to this worthy cause.”


“This measure is a quantum leap forward in the long road to reforming California and ensuring government is operating more transparently and effectively for everyday Californians,” said Antonia Hernández, Member of Think Long and the California Forward Leadership Council.


“We welcome the partnership with the Think Long Committee,” said Tom McKernan, Co-Chair of California Forward.  “Think Long and California Forward are at the forefront of the movement to reform governance in our state.  This alliance holds the promise of bringing trust and confidence back to government in California.”


“Californians spoke loudly and clearly during the three years California Forward spent traveling across the state engaging them on the issue of state government reform,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, Co-Chair of the California Forward Action Fund.  “They want accountability and transparency in government from top to bottom.  Our measure is a critical first step towards what Californians want.”


Think Long Committee for California is: Nicolas Berggruen (Founder), David Bonderman, Eli Broad, the Honorable Willie Brown, the Honorable Gray Davis, Maria Elena Durazo, the late Matthew Fong, the Honorable Ronald George, Antonia Hernandez, the Honorable Robert Hertzberg, Gerry Parsky, the Honorable Condoleeza Rice, Eric Schmidt, Terry Semel, the Honorable George Shultz and Dr. Laura D’Andrea Tyson.


California Forward is: a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in 2008 with Leon Panetta and Tom McKernan as Co-Chairs.  Panetta has since been succeeded by Robert Hertzberg.  It was initiated by five major California foundations to develop reforms to improve government performance, move government closer to the people, invest in the future and promote a viable, inclusive and responsive democracy.


The California Forward Action Fund is: a separate organization that pursues reform recommendations made by California Forward through legislation or ballot measures.



Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Steven Robert

    “Reformers”? How about special interests and a billionaire? Let’s not throw around that word without examining this measure beyond the press release. It would cost $250 million that would probably be taken from education, set up new bureaucracies, and hamstring the Legislature from acting.