Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website]
Busting Panel Needed
Solve State's Fiscal Woes
[Jon Coupal and Tom Schatz] 10/4/03
When he was governor of California,
Ronald Reagan established a private sector commission to make
recommendations on how to
eliminate wasteful spending and make the California state government
more efficient. Four decades later, with the state facing its
worst fiscal crisis and on the verge of recalling its current
governor, Gray Davis, for gross fiscal mismanagement, it is
imperative to look to the past for guidance in order to escape
the $38 billion
As President, Reagan implemented federally what he had
done in California by creating the Grace Commission, consisting
senior business executives and more than 2,000 private sector
volunteers, to conduct a comprehensive review of the budget.
The final report made 2,478 recommendations to eliminate waste,
mismanagement and inefficiency in Washington, equaling a potential
savings of $424 billion.
One of the most successful ideas implemented from
the Grace Commission was the Base Realignment and Closure Commission
BRAC, Congress had been unable to close unnecessary military
bases because members of Congress simply lacked the courage
to close bases in their districts and states. But in 1988, Congress
delegated authority to BRAC to create a list of superfluous
bases. That same year, Congress voted in favor of an omnibus
base-closing bill containing a slate of military bases submitted
The secret to the success of BRAC was that it spread
the base closings throughout the country and no member of Congress
claim that his district had been singled out. By casting a
broad net, the omnibus bill galvanized a majority coalition.
base closings again in 1991, 1993, and 1995, saving taxpayers
A California budget commission should be modeled
after the Grace Commission and BRAC. This budget realignment
go over the state's finances with a fine-toothed comb, uncovering
the waste and suggesting various programs for elimination.
Those suggestions should be written into an omnibus, stand-alone
bill. The un-amendable bill should then be subject to an up-or-down
vote of the Assembly and Senate within a specific time period.
That process would have the effect of keeping special interests
out of the amendment process, and force the legislature to
make tough decisions.
In its quest to cut government waste, the budget
commission could start by reading the California Piglet Book,
published by Citizens
Against Government Waste and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation.
The California Piglet Book details waste and duplication in
the state budget, identifying more than $5.1 billion to be saved
through the creation of a leaner and more efficient California
government. The Piglet Book's recommendations run the gamut
eliminating fraud in the Medi-Cal program to disallowing state
employees to call psychic and sex hotlines from office phones.
host of candidates bidding to take control of the Governor's
Mansion have provided several diverse plans to rid California
of its $38 billion deficit -- some more entertaining than others.
Actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised
that the first step he would take as governor is to conduct an
audit of the state's budget. State Sen. Tom McClintock sponsored
legislation that would create the Bureaucracy Reduction and
Closure Commission, modeled after the federal Base Realignment
Commission; it would identify and eliminate wasteful and duplicative
programs in the state government.
On the opposite side of the
spectrum, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante's Tough Love plan calls
for an $8 billion tax increase and $4 billion
in spending cuts. Raising taxes will not solve the root problems
associated with wasteful government spending. Waste is waste,
regardless of whether the state is operating in the red or
the black. California already claims the sixth-highest state
local tax burden, and businesses in the state face the second
worst tax system in the country. Increasing taxes would only
drive more businesses and jobs out-of-state, further depressing
the economy and causing the state to lose much-needed revenue.
was not long ago that California basked in a $12 billion budget
surplus. In order to return to prosperity, Gov. Davis, or whoever
replaces him, and the legislature have plenty of tough decisions
to make. A well-designed government waste commission could
make their jobs a lot easier.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Tom Schatz is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
They are co-authors of The Piglet Book, which is available on