Local government CA’s best hope to ensure accountability & results

150 150 Bruce McPherson

Published in the November 11 edition of the San Jose Mercury News.

Californians have been clear – they want their governments to be more accountable and perform more effectively.

In response to this desire for more government accountability, The California Forward Action Fund has introduced The Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA), a constitutional amendment that will fix the state by encouraging greater participation of local governments in policymaking and responsible budgeting.  

It isn’t about raising taxes; it doesn’t tell the state how to run its schools, prisons and social programs. It’s about the ability of everyday Californians to hold their elected leaders accountable for real results.

What the GPAA does is simply introduce a mechanism for giving greater responsibility and authority to local governments in making budget and policy decisions that relate to Californians.  Lawmakers would have to identify ways to pay for major policy choices, rather than putting programs at risk of being cut in future years, thus minimizing the destructive boom and bust cycle of budgeting that have become commonplace in the state budgeting process.

The way it stands now, it’s impossible for local government to develop meaningful, effective public programs or allocate resources to effectively implement them. The system isn’t structured to encourage the engagement and dialogue among local governments that are critical to effectively implementing government programs, determining the availability of fiscal resources and improving outcomes in areas such as education, jobs, safety, healthcare and the economy.

This failing must be addressed if Californians are to share in the bounty the state once promised: good jobs, world class education, affordable health care and safe neighborhoods.  No reform can succeed without it. Countless discussions with business and community leaders throughout the state corroborate what many of us have believed for a long time:  By empowering local government, implanting ways to hold government accountable, and guaranteeing adequate funding to implement public programs, over time, government will be more responsive and effective in meeting the goals of the state as a whole.

The proposed Government Performance and Accountability Act would:

  • Provide a stable and results-oriented budget process that helps local government reach community goals;
  • Encourage partnerships between local leaders and the community and collaboration among regional groups;
  • Hold local officials accountable for the success or failure of public programs; and
  • Facilitate greater open and participative government at every level.

There’s nothing radical or controversial in that.  It has been shown to work in almost every other state:  participation, performance and accountability.  It is, in fact the foundation upon which our democratic government was formed.

Californians have made it clear they want to fix the system before they bankroll it anymore. They have said this time and time again in polls and countless meetings across the state with California Forward. The Government Performance and Accountability Act is essential to keeping leaders responsible and bringing long-term meaningful change to a process that no longer works.

Bruce McPherson is a member California Forward’s Leadership Council. McPherson was California’s 30th Secretary of State and served two terms in each the California Assembly and Senate, representing the Monterey Bay Area.


Bruce McPherson

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