Gov. Brown’s Executive Order: Necessary budgetary reform

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On December 8, the Governor issued his long awaited Executive Order on “common-sense budgeting methods.” Although the Executive Order has minor language variations from those used in SB 14 (which the Governor vetoed), the Executive Order will accomplish the same purpose and will lay the foundation for a major change in California state budgeting. For those who watch the state budget process it is a dramatic shift in the way program budgets are built, discussed in the legislature and then implemented.

The first step is to recognize that there is a problem with the state budget-making system. Over the last several years, California Forward, along with a variety of civic minded groups, has been working with the legislature and two successive administrations to revise the state’s budgeting practices. The issues that we and others have identified are universal and recognized by Governor Brown are:

  • Current budgeting method focuses on incremental changes to the prior year’s funding, rather than a deeper review of programs and a focus on program results;
  • Employing methods to evaluate and improve programs requires close collaboration with the Legislature to establish mutual agreement on program goals and measuring performance.

What do we expect from the administration early next year? Their Executive Order outlines a new budget practice that will begin to replace the old “work load” model: 

  • A strategy to incorporate program-evaluation methods into the budget process for selected activities and programs;
  • Ways to ensure transparency about program goals, outcomes, and funding;
  • A process for collaborating with the Legislature, particularly in establishing program goals and measuring program outcomes;
  • A structure to work with local governments to develop methods to measure and evaluate the performance of state-funded, locally-administered programs.

These steps are supportive of our initiative measure, the Government Performance and Accountability Act. Our measure will institutionalize this process so that future governors will find performance assessment and working toward public policy goals a standard part of the decision making process. We will continue to support and assist the administration in efforts to accomplish our mutual goals.

Below we present a sampling of quotations garnered from around CA on Gov. Brown’s Executive Order:

“I’m happy to see the Governor embrace positive performance measures in the budgeting process. What’s puzzling is why he vetoed a bill just a few months ago that I jointly authored with Senator Wolk, which would have accomplished the same goals.  SB 14 had wide, bipartisan support in the State Legislature, but after months of testimony in several committees, it became clear that the Governor’s own Department of Finance opposed the idea of performance based budgeting. The Governor’s veto message called SB 14 a “panacea,” that offered “little chance of actual (budget) improvement.” He’s now issued a statement to work collaboratively with the Legislature to implement the ideas contained in SB 14, which begs the question of why he vetoed the measure to begin with.”

–          Bob Huff (R-Los Angeles), CA state senator, Republican Caucus Chair , co-author SB 14

“I applaud the Governor for recognizing that our budget system is broken and directing his staff to come up with a plan to fix the problem in the next 90 days,” Wolk said.  “If we are going to restore public confidence in state government – and we need that confidence if we want to talk with the public about increasing revenues – then the Governor and the Legislature together need to get serious about increasing transparency and accountability throughout state government.”

–          Lois Wolk (D-San Joaquin Co.), CA state senator, Chair of the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee, co-author SB 14

“Responsible state budgeting will signal a commitment to entrepreneurs, to California businesses thinking about expansion and to businesses considering an investment in the state that the government is willing to be held accountable on the issue of performance. California government should apply the same basic common sense principles as both for-and non-profit businesses through multi-year and performance-based budgeting to evaluate successful or unsuccessful programs.”

–          Carl Guardino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

“The Governor’s executive order takes the best ideas California Forward has been developing with lawmakers over the course of the year to require the state to do what every successful business in California is doing already: Make sure the state’s programs are working. The order will require state agencies to set goals for their programs and then measure their progress toward those goals. This is basic common-sense, it’s not partisan or controversial, and it will be good for California businesses.”

–          Linda Best, President of the Contra Costa Council


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