K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
State Government Down To Size
Rocking the status quo…
[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 8/25/04
of the California Performance Review was recently released
already drawing fire. But it's difficult for
critics to argue with the report's central premise – that
California government is too big.
There are no fewer than 120 separate departments in California
government. The performance review would consolidate 11 agencies
and 79 departments into 11 departments.
The state also has hundreds of commissions and boards. These
include the Structural Pest Control Board, Board of Barbering
and Cosmetology, the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Board, the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American
Affairs, the Summer School for the Arts Board of Trustees and
the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine Advisory Committee. And many
The performance review proposes eliminating 118 of 339 boards
and commissions, along with 1,153 appointed positions. Some of
these pay $100,000 a year for minimal work, an obvious form of
patronage for former legislators and staffers. It costs California
taxpayers more than $9 million a year just for the 17 boards
and commissions with the highest-paid members.
The candidates for elimination include the Air Resources Board,
but unfortunately not the California Coastal Commission, which
combines corruption with Draconian regulation. Every county on
the coast has a government capable of handling its affairs without
the red tape of a redundant commission dating from the early
review report, titled "Prescription for
Change: A Government for the People for a Change," proposes
to phase out some 12,000 state jobs. It recommends areas for
privatization, currently forbidden under some state laws, including
local child-support services. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also
has a plan to contract out health care for prisoners to private
health care providers.
It should be noted that the report was written not by private
consultants but 275 state workers. Co-director of the project
was Chon Gutierrez, chief of California's Department of Motor
Vehicles, hardly an agency that inspires confidence.
The review's commissioners included J.J. Jelincic, president
of the California State Employees Association. Groups that submitted
ideas included unions, academics, state agencies, and businesses
such as Microsoft, Pfizer, General Electric, and Chevron.
also takes aim at the state's biggest expenditure – education.
This is a system rife with corruption and waste. Before they
reach actual students in California classrooms, taxpayer dollars
must trickle down through multiple levels of bureaucratic sediment.
The performance review proposes eliminating the county superintendents
who rule the 58 county offices of education. These handle some
tasks but are also holding tanks for high-salaried educrats with
nebulous job descriptions.
The cut-off date for kindergarten would change from Dec. 2 to
Sept. 1, resulting in fewer entrants. More education functions
would come under the control of the governor.
defenders of the status quo such as John Mockler, longtime
a former executive director of the state
board of education. But Democrats such as Kerry Mazzoni, education
secretary for Gray Davis, agree that there is currently overlap
in a structure that lacks accountability. "There should
be someone who is clearly accountable," she told reporters.
Other recommendations include tax reform in the form of a five-percent
sales tax credit on manufacturing and telecommunications equipment,
the streamlining of business permits and increasing the number
of toll roads. An estimated $4 million could be saved yearly,
the report says, by computerizing the written portion of driver's
Personal responsibility and sensible cost-cutting, the report
says, would help reform Medi-Cal, besotted with inefficiency
and fraud. These and other recommendations have some merit but
the report includes some dubious ideas. It proposes that California
join a multistate lottery and wants public college and university
students to perform community service in order to receive their
If all the recommendations were implemented, the report claims,
California could save $32 billion over the next five years. That
is a substantial sum. But while the governor wants to blow up
the boxes of government, the performance review will touch off
explosions of a different sort.
Legislators, state employees and public employee unions like
things the way they are. They are opposed to privatization, and
want even more and bigger boxes. Recall the recent push for universal
pre-school and a massive government health care system.
Taxpayers can have their say in series of public hearings on
the 2,500-page report. While the final outcome is in doubt, it
will be hard to challenge the reality that California government
is bloated, wasteful and unaccountable, and that it needs to
be smaller, more efficient and responsive to the people. CRO
2004 Pacific Research Institute