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Chuck DeVore- Contributor

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore represents 450,000 residents of Orange County California’s 70th Assembly District.. He served as a Reagan White House appointee in the Pentagon from 1986 to 1988 and was Senior Assistant to Cong. Chris Cox. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. Chuck’s novel, CHINA ATTACKS, sells internationally and has been translated into Chinese for sales in Taiwan. [go to DeVore index]

A First and Long Overdue Step
Arnold’s budget…
[Chuck DeVore] 1/14/05

For those who believe government should run more like a business, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recently released budget was a dose of much needed good news.

In many respects, it reads like a business reorganization plan any new CEO implements to right a struggling company. After all, even successful companies reorganize at least every two years to maintain maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Otherwise, they risk becoming complacent and mediocre and thus going out of business.

Yet California’s last major reorganization probably occurred 90 years ago under Governor Hiram Johnson. With his new budget, Governor Schwarzenegger has demonstrated he thinks we are long overdue for common sense reform, and I agree.

Just as Hiram Johnson challenged Sacramento’s entrenched special interests in the early 1900s, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s structural reforms throw down the gauntlet to the wasteful special interests that controlled the state during Gray Davis’ disastrous five year reign.

“Any time you try to remove one dollar from the budget, there are five special interests tugging on the other end,” Schwarzenegger said in his State of the State address. Truer words have rarely been spoken in Sacramento. No wonder the governor’s budget plans elicited yelps from the permanent spending lobby. However, whether the spenders like it or not, change must come.

This is because California’s current budget system largely operates on auto-pilot. Every dollar of new revenue to the state generates almost two dollars in spending. Thus raising taxes does not backfill deficits. Rather, it only accelerates spending, leaving our budget no more in balance than before. To truly correct our state’s fiscal woes, we must promote economic growth while reducing the rate of spending increases.

The governor recognizes this, and his budget proposes a long term fix to our systemic deficits through fiscal reforms. These end auto-pilot spending, forcing each agency to justify its use of tax dollars, each and every year – much like the rest of us have to do with the family or corporate budget. This common sense reform ends the problem of ever-increasing spending with ever-diminishing returns

Other reforms slow the spiraling cost of public pensions and streamline government agencies to promote efficiency. Reforming how our state conducts its business will undoubtedly be painful for some. However, the wounds made are as those of a skillful surgeon who is doing what he must to save the patient.

In spite of the difficult choices facing our state, Governor Schwarzenegger, to his credit, kept education as a top priority. His budget boosts per pupil K-12 spending from the current $9,864 to $10,084 with overall education spending increasing by 7.1%.

In return, the governor has suggested that teachers earn their pay based on merit rather than tenure. This is something most Californians accept. They understand higher pay comes with better performance. Sadly, this is a foreign concept for the leadership in the teachers unions. However, it is an idea whose time has come. If the governor can muscle this proposal through, it may very well be the most important government reform proposed in the past 20 years.

As Gov. Schwarzenegger said during his State of the State, “Now is a time for choosing.” He has shown the courage to challenge the spending lobby. The question that remains for us in Sacramento and you the people is whether those champions of the broken status quo can be persuaded to go along.

The answer will determine whether California can shed its business as usual attitude for a business-like attitude. CRO

copyright 2005 Chuck DeVore




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