One of the reasons California faces chronic multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls is that we use a broken budget system that leads to automatic increases in state spending each year.
The only way to solve our long-term budget problems is by adopting true budget reform.
Reform has been an important priority of mine since I was elected to the Legislature last year. I introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 to require two-year budget planning, providing better stability and certainty to local governments, schools districts and private business vendors. As a matter of principle, we need more long-term planning in state budgeting and my reform will do just that.
I was also pleased to work with members of both parties to co-author two important budget reform measures.
Assembly Bill 656 would have sent a host of state agencies, boards and commissions through sunset review to ensure they are held accountable to meeting specified goals and objectives. Right now, California’s 550 bureaucracies are accountable to no one, and too many of these boards and commissions offer little tangible benefit for Californians.
Taxpayers deserve better. At a time when education funding is on the chopping block, we have a duty to get our budget priorities in order. Californians expect state government to review its operations from time to time and eliminate or streamline boards and commissions that have outlived their usefulness or are inefficient.
Another reform, Senate Bill 14, would have enacted performance-based budgeting in California. Under our current, broken system, budgets for state agencies and departments are based on baselines of how much was spent the previous year. Mandatory spending formulas lock in spending at higher levels that are unsustainable and that will worsen our long- term deficit. No accounting is done to ensure budget expenditures reflect our priorities and achieve desired results.
Year after year, state budget writers fail to review whether an agency is getting the job done or whether bureaucrats are spending the people’s money efficiently and effectively. Performance-based budgeting changes this, requiring state departments to justify how they are spending our hard-earned tax dollars.
These two reforms, sunset review and performance- based budgeting, are essential to ending business as usual at the State Capitol and making state government transparent and accountable to taxpayers again. At a time when Democrats and Republicans agree on very little, it was encouraging to see these reforms overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature with strong, bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, Gov. Brown vetoed these two important bills. Though he has championed political reform in the past, his recent action is a de facto defense of the status quo and standing by a broken, unaccountable system instead of by the people.
Despite the setback of the governor’s veto, we must continue to demand increased accountability in Sacramento and restoring the voice of citizens to their government. Only by implementing fundamental reforms to our budget process and state operations can we really make any progress in restoring the people’s trust in state government and returning pride and prosperity to California.
Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) represents the 25th Assembly District.
This article also printed in the Modesto Bee