Pete Wilson on Reforms

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Former governor Pete Wilson doesn’t think many of the governance reforms circulating from commissions, think tanks and good government groups are necessary if the legislature would just follow the law.

While opposing the idea of a constitutional convention at an Orange County town hall meeting Wednesday, Wilson argued that the constitution requires that the legislature provide a balanced budget. If legislators don’t comply, the former governor argues a writ of mandamus issued by a court would bring a wayward legislature into line. A writ of mandamus allows a court to demand a government officer or agency to perform a mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.

Wilson declared deficit spending must be averted at all costs. He explained to avoid deficit spending he went along with the legislative Democrats to raise taxes during the first year of his governorship when Republican legislators would not support his effort to cut education, the largest portion of the budget.

Still, Wilson acknowledged there was merit to some of the reforms that are emanating from the reform organizations.

(Another look at reform will come from the legislature itself with the announcement yesterday by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of the newly formed Joint Select Committee on Reform.)

Wilson approved a number of reforms put out by California Forward, the bi-partisan, foundation funded think tank. Wilson praised the Pay-As-You-Go measure requiring new spending plans to name either revenue sources or cuts to pay for a program. He also said the two-year budget was a good idea as long as a governor had the authority to make mid-year budget corrections.

As governor, Wilson proposed giving the governor authority to adjust the budget mid-year as one of a number of reforms to the welfare system and budget process in a 1992 initiative, which was defeated.

The former governor also suggested bringing back the Gann spending limit, which capped state spending increases to inflation and population growth. However, he came out against reducing the two-thirds vote to pass the budget. Wilson said a majority vote for the budget would invite deficit spending.

Wilson also said some of the ideas coming from the Commission on the 21st Century Economy are good ones, specifically citing the flat income tax proposal.

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