Fiscal reforms sacrificed in same old story

150 150 Alan Autry, special to The Sacramento Bee

Now we know. For the first few months of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration we wondered if we had elected the new and improved Jerry Brown, mellowed by age and experience, or “Governor Moonbeam,” the sequel.

Brown’s campaign platform, titled “Get California’s Government Working Again,” began with this hopeful sentence: “The next governor must be ready to stand against the crowd to lead a broken Legislature out of a morass of poisonous partisanship.”

But the jury was out. Would he be a problem solver or a partisan pol, a consensus builder or a lone wolf who believes he’s smarter than the rest of us? The bills he has just signed, and those that he vetoed, help answer these questions.

Senate Bill 202 was ginned up in the dead of night in the waning moments of the Legislature in a gut-and-amend process – no hearings, no deliberation. It will restrict statewide initiative ballots to the every-other-year general elections.

Dan Walters had this to say about the bill: “It’s the centerpiece of a broad effort by the Democratic Party and its labor union allies to restrict use of the initiative system. … They simply don’t like that their almost complete domination of the state’s political policy can be challenged via initiative.”

Inside SB 202 is a shift in the date for voting on ACA 4, from 2012 to 2014. ACA 4 is a constitutional amendment to bring added fiscal stability to the state by strengthening the state’s rainy day fund and increasing the state’s reserves. The 2012 vote was agreed to by the Legislature and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the deal that finally resolved the prolonged budget impasse that year. Multiple recent editorials warned that reneging on last year’s budget deal would make it impossible for the governor to expect cooperation on any future negotiations with Republicans. The governor ignored the warnings and signed the bill.

Senate Bill 14 is a bill that called for performance-based budgeting by the state. It recognized that taxpayers feel they are not getting good returns on their dollars. California’s K-12 school system and infrastructure were once the envy of the nation and the world. Today they are both ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the nation. We spend more money per prisoner than any other state, yet we have the highest recidivism in the nation. Performance-based budgeting in other states has generated improved outcomes and billions in taxpayer savings.

SB 14 had 26 bipartisan co-authors, more than any other bill in the last legislative session. It passed both sessions of the Legislature with unanimous, bipartisan votes. It was supported by the bipartisan governance reform organization California Forward, and by a broad coalition that included labor and business organizations. The governor vetoed the bill.

Why would the new Jerry Brown nix this opportunity to improve state outcomes and efficiency? What part of accountability to the voters does he not understand?

Excerpt reprinted with permission from the Sacramento Bee. To read the full article, click here.

Alan Autry is former mayor of Fresno, CA.


Alan Autry, special to The Sacramento Bee

All stories by: Alan Autry, special to The Sacramento Bee