Time for California Government to Ride into the Sunset

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

With the preliminaries now over, the annual California Budget Goat Rodeo will kick-off this week with the unveiling of the fabled and eagerly awaited Governor’s May Revise. I don’t know about you but I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs in anticipation of what the new deficit number will be. $10 billion? $15 billion? $20 billion?

We will soon hear the cries against cuts to programs grow louder from one side of the Building and the line in the sand statements of "no new taxes" from the other side.

But the one thing you probably won’t hear is "how about eliminating some programs?" That is a concept that seems to be foreign to the Legislature.

I don’t mean indiscriminately taking the budget ax to a particular program or agency, but review the program to see if it is still effective and necessary. You can’t tell me there are not things we are currently funding that don’t need close scrutiny and could be eliminated.
Enter the Sunset Commission.

While Californians are loathe take advice from other states, particularly Texas, maybe we should swallow our pride and take a good hard look at the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Check it out.

In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years. The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities. The Commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

As we are looking for reforms that will help us get us past the annual budget theater, we should definitely look at creating a Sunset Commission. A 21st Century California government must be more nimble and readily able to adapt to changing conditions and address the needs of the state. A Sunset Commission could be a key reform in getting our fiscal house in order.

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