The California Performance Review still packs a punch...
seven Mr. Olympia titles to his role as "Conan the
Barbarian" to his fleet of Humvees, Arnold Schwarzenegger
has always been larger than life. This grand persona was even
evident as he unveiled his massive California Performance Review
plan a year ago today. Sadly, his follow-through on government
reform has been less than Herculean.
To advocates of reform, the California Performance Review -
Schwarzenegger's centerpiece effort to reform state government
- was to be a watershed moment in state history. The performance
review proposed a top-to-bottom reorganization of government,
eliminating more than 1,100 political appointees, and recommended
more than 1,400 policy reforms to improve and streamline how
government operates. The plan was so ambitious that conventional
wisdom said a special election would be needed to enact many
of the reforms.
As months passed, talk of a special election
grew but the governor's focus shifted to other reforms - redistricting,
fixing the state's
hemorrhaging taxpayer-guaranteed pensions for government employees,
merit pay for teachers and a water-tight spending limit. California
Performance Review reforms seemed, in comparison to these common-sense
reforms, relatively insignificant and too "inside baseball." When
the performance review's reforms didn't make the cut for the
special election, many supporters still happily focused on the
administration's new priorities.
Passantino is Director of Government Affairs for the Reason
Foundation and coauthor of "Roadmap to Reform."
But more and more holes quickly appeared in Schwarzenegger's "year
of reform" election package. The water-tight spending limit
that was promised morphed into a milquetoast plan that, while
offering important mid-year budget-cutting authority to the governor,
does not adequately confront the state's spending addiction.
The desperately needed reform of taxpayer-backed pensions for
government employees shifted from a publicly supported winner
into a political fireball due to a drafting ambiguity. The promise
to enact merit pay for teachers disappeared. And now, it is possible
that the cornerstone of Schwarzenegger's reform agenda, his effort
to reform how state political maps are drawn, may also fall off
the ballot because of a drafting error.
It seems the "year of reform" offers
little reform at all. Many are wondering, what, if anything,
is Gov. Schwarzenegger
willing to really fight for? If he is serious about reforming
government and restoring the luster to his dulled political persona,
Schwarzenegger must do two things.
First, he must resist the calls of critics, and some political
allies, to dump the special election. While the momentum of the
special election has diminished, there is still one mega-issue
on the ballot that deserves Schwarzenegger's complete support.
Paycheck protection, which would require government employee
unions to get the affirmative permission of members to collect
and spend dues for political purposes, now moves to center stage
in the reform battle. The governor needs to be right there with
Second, Gov. Schwarzenegger is most effective when he acts like
Arnold the bodybuilder - big, bold and committed to results.
So he should dust off the performance review and select a few
key reforms to move forward when the legislature returns in August.
California still owns golf courses, stadiums, beach houses and
prime commercial real estate. An aggressive effort to sell off
these properties could, according to California Performance Review
estimates, generate as much as $4 billion.
There are still more than 220 boards and commissions in the
executive branch with little accountability to the public. Some
of the most egregious boards, such as the Integrated Waste Management
Board, still pay more than $100,000 to their politically appointed
And the state still inexplicably has four tax collecting entities:
the Franchise Tax Board collects personal income tax; the Board
of Equalization collects sales tax, the Employment Development
Department collects payroll taxes; and the Department of Motor
Vehicle collects the car tax. Consolidating these functions would
save money and improve service to the public.
Billions of dollars in reachable reforms exist for Gov. Schwarzenegger
to pluck if he so chooses. Not only would it deliver real reform
to California but it would serve as a call to his supporters,
and the public at large, that he will follow through on his promises
and fight for the reform he has talked about since his historic
election. That is the Arnold we are looking for and the one we
elected in 2003. CRO
This piece first appeared in the Orange County Register
copyright 2004 Reason Foundation