California may be struggling with a budget crisis and a sluggish economy – but we can fix it. Our state can have a prosperous and environmentally sustainable economy that provides equal opportunities for all. To get there, governments at the state and local levels must work together to provide cost-effective services and better results, something that doesn’t happen today as much as it should.
In the latest draft of the Smart Government Framework, CA Fwd outlines a course of action to restructure the relationship between state and local governments to produce better results for both taxpayers and people who rely on government services. These proposals are built around a simple idea: California’s three most significant areas of state general fund spending – education, health and human services, and public safety – are fundamentally interrelated.
The Framework introduces five new priorities for the state: Better education leads to better jobs, which leads to a healthier population, less poverty, less crime, and ultimately less pressure on government budgets. Structural and fiscal reforms should focus on these Big Five Outcomes, not just to balance the budget or close a shortfall – but to realign public programs at all levels to deliver results.
To achieve these outcomes, CA Fwd has developed five draft proposals:
1) FOCUS ON OUTCOMES: State operations should be aligned with measurable outcomes.
2) ALIGN AUTHORITY WITH RESPONSIBILITY: Funding and program authority should move to local governments.
3) ADJUST THE STATE ROLE: The state’s role should shift to oversight and technical assistance.
4) FOSTER REGIONAL COLLABORATION: Local governments should be incentivized to work together.
5) ENCOURAGE INTEGRATION AND CONSOLIDATION: State and local agencies should be consolidated and integrated where possible.
California currently has a nearly $90 billion budget and no strategy for achieving statewide goals. If Californians can come together to restructure the relationships between state and local governments, the state will see immediate benefits – from better outcomes to increased civic engagement.
Studies show that if local governments could integrate services in areas like CalWORKs, public safety, and mental health – and just bring programs to the same levels of effectiveness and efficiency as other states – California could save billions of dollars each year.
Restructuring California’s government can be the beginning of a virtuous cycle – improved education, more workforce participation, better health outcomes, and less crime – that can lead to the best possible outcome: A government that achieves positive social gains in a financially sustainable way.
CA Fwd plans to hold a series of roundtables throughout April and May to solicit further comments on the Smart Government Framework as we work to finalize the proposals.
Richard Raya is the policy director at California Forward