Reform plan worth serious public debate
The giant government-reform hairball that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration coughed up this week seems almost calculated to defy analysis: 2,500 pages produced by 275 staffers, including 1,200 ideas for transforming the state’s bureaucracy by eliminating 12,000 jobs, and closing or consolidating 11 agencies and more than 75 departments into 11 large cabinet-like departments.
The lofty goal is to address California’s financial crisis by saving as much as $32 billion over the next five years, but the cynical reaction is that this ambitious plan will go the way of similar proposals by groups such as the constitutional review panel in the 1990s – ignored and forgotten because of political and interest-group opposition.
Schwarzenegger seemed to anticipate as much right out of the gate by attacking potential critics and charging that “their agenda is not the people’s agenda.” But if there is to be hope of passing any kind of reform, Schwarzenegger won’t be able to do it alone, especially by declaring a political jihad.
And there are many winning ideas in this report, mixed in with the trivial and even potentially dangerous for Nevada County, such as eliminating the independent state air and water boards.
The only route to success is open debate and collaboration. The proposal dumped on the governor’s desk was assembled behind closed doors, in secrecy, and it shows. It is, like the bureaucracy itself, a disorganized mess.
Fortunately, there are five public hearings scheduled over the next two months in which we will be able to see if the state is really ready for governmental efficiency, or if there must be more financial pain before our leaders realize they must find a solution together.
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