In Brown’s Budget: A Mini “Blow Up the Boxes”

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

Anyone around in the early years of the Schwarzenegger Administration remembers the effort to streamline and reorganize government by, in the former governor’s famous phrase, “blow up the boxes.” You can find a mini effort to “blow up the boxes” in the budget proposal Governor Jerry Brown unveiled last week.

In a budget chapter titled “Making Government More Efficient,” the governor proposes “reorganizing state government to eliminate and consolidate agencies, departments, and programs; eliminating unnecessary boards, commissions, and advisory groups.”

In presenting the California Performance Review in 2005 to reorganize state government, Governor Schwarzenegger said, “We have multiple departments with overlapping responsibilities. I say consolidate them. We have boards and commissions that serve no pressing public need. I say abolish them.”

The California Performance Review evaluated more than 300 boards and commissions, and, in the end, recommended 88 boards and commissions for elimination, in a number of cases transferring duties of some of the boards and commissions to other departments.

Governor Brown offers a list of about half-as-many boards and commissions for transfer or elimination in addition to proposals for reorganizing departments.

A quick perusal of the California Performance Review finds some commissions that appeared on Governor Schwarzenegger’s list made an encore appearance in Governor Brown’s agenda.

Some examples: Both reorganizations recommended eliminating the 9-1-1 Advisory Board and the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. The California Performance Review recommended eliminating the Commission on Uniform State Laws while the Brown budget suggests consolidating the commission within the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The controversial High Speed Rail Authority was tagged by Schwarzenegger to be rolled into the California Transportation Commission, while Brown wants the authority to be overseen by a reorganized Transportation Agency.

The Legislature must decide if it will go along with the suggested changes in the Brown budget. Governor Schwarzenegger did not get far with his reorganization plan, which faced stiff opposition from interests protecting their status quo position.

Battles over eliminating some of the boards during the Schwarzenegger years will be replayed now that Brown wants to do similar housecleaning.

Take the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. It is considered a soft landing place for termed out politicians. Legislators have been hesitant to eliminate it. After all, one of those voting on elimination may want to end up there.

Brown wants to reduce the number of regional water boards and reduce the number of board members. The California Performance Review also wanted to eliminate local water boards and ran into a buzz saw of opposition from the local, well-healed water boards that fought ferociously to defend their turf.

While the California Performance Review scored few victories under its major reform proposal, perhaps the goal of reorganization and efficiency in state government is best achieved with smaller bites as Brown is attempting to do.

 

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