The CA Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has just released a report on the state’s 2011-2012 Realignment Plan that aligns very closely with California Forward’s Smart Government Framework. It’s not surprising that there is overlap between LAO recommendations and the CA FWD proposals, because much of what we are proposing is common sense. It is, however, affirming that the esteemed LAO appears to be pushing for the same improvements.
The LAO offers seven recommendations to promote the long-term success of Realignment, and five of these recommendations affirm the first three proposals in our Smart Government Framework. In particular, the LAO recommends that Realignment:
- Promote local accountability.
- Make sure that local fiscal incentives are aligned with statewide goals.
- Simplify the structure of the realignment accounts to provide financial flexibility.
- Enact statutory changes to give counties appropriate program flexibility.
- Clearly define the state’s role and funding responsibilities
The first four recommendations are in line with the first two Smart Government proposals to 1) Focus on Outcomes and 2) Align Authority with Results.
California Forward proposes that the state budget be aligned to the Big Five Outcomes: Education, Employment, Health, Poverty and Public Safety. The state budget is already implicitly addressing these outcomes, given that the majority of it is spent on education, health and welfare, and prisons. The state should be explicit about the outcomes it is trying to achieve: Programs should measure their progress toward these goals and make program corrections where needed.
To promote innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness, California Forward also proposes that the state grant control of programs and revenues for locally delivered services to local governments. Improving local program results should be the primary responsibility of local government. To accomplish this, local governments will need more authority. Local governments will also need a strategic plan and resource base that encourages them to integrate their services—and to focus their resources on improving outcomes.
The fifth LAO recommendation is very similar to the third Smart Government Proposal: Adjust the State Role. California Forward proposes that the state’s role should shift to one of leadership, setting a statewide vision, and technical assistance. The state’s relationship with local governments should focus on: Measuring progress toward the Big Five Outcomes, incentivizing collaboration among local programs, sharing best practices among local governments, and developing fiscal incentives that allow local governments to retain savings.
Here are some key excerpts from the LAO Report:
- Given that (the realigned Juvenile Justice) grant programs have overlapping goals and provide similar services, we recommend that the Legislature consolidate the funding for these programs beginning in 2012–13. Such a change would increase local flexibility by allowing local governments to use the funds in ways that meet their unique juvenile justice needs more efficiently and effectively. In addition, reducing the number of program–specific reporting requirements would reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, freeing up resources for more supervision, treatment, and oversight activities designed to achieve improved public safety results.
- In those cases where a minimum level of service is a priority of the Legislature, it can establish minimum standards or requirements.
- Realignment should be structured so that local governments experience fiscal benefits when they successfully and effectively operate the realigned programs.
- We suggest that any (accountability) requirements emphasize outcome measures and be made available to the general public—for example, on the county website. In order to ensure that county administrators and state officials can effectively compare program outcomes across counties, the state should ensure the uniformity of any reporting requirements.
- The Legislature could require the Board of State and Community Corrections to compare program outcomes (such as recidivism rates) among counties, as well as formalize a process for identifying and sharing best practices used in successful counties.
- If the Legislature and administration address realignment issues in a thoughtful way, with a long–term vision, there is a greater chance that realignment could result in significant benefits for the state and local governments, including improvements in program outcomes and more efficient delivery of services.
It’s important to note that California Forward is not only recommending these Smart Government practices for realignment programs, but for as much of the State budget as possible. Overall, the LAO report is an excellent summary of the of the Realignment Plan, beginning with the Governor’s proposal in January 2011, and ending with the Adopted 2011-2012 Budget.