California’s Legislative Analyst, Elizabeth Hill, is retiring. It has been her job for 22 years to run the Legislative Analyst’s Office and present analysis on legislative measures, the governor’s budget and a wide array of initiative proposals. Beyond that she has led the LAO in preparing studies to bring perspective to many of California’s governmental conundrums. I remember carefully studying one such book entitled Making Government Make Sense. I didn’t agree with all the recommendations but I applauded the effort.
Yesterday the Senate took time to praise Elizabeth Hill as reported by Capitol Alert’s Shane Goldmacher. Hill heard justifiable tributes from both sides of the political aisle. Frequently, the 120 members of the legislature are referred to as Hill’s 120 bosses. However, Hill looked at these legislators as her clients delivering her observations in a straight talk manner that would humble John McCain.
And she never forgot that she had a few million more clients beyond the legislature – the people of California.
One of the obligations of her office that grew exponentially during her tenure was analyzing the effect and costs of proposed initiatives. As a proponent of a number of initiatives, and an opponent of others, I helped present issues involved in these measures to Hill and her staff on many occasions. I always found her to be open-minded and fair. And, she did this while many of those supposed 120 bosses of hers were often unhappy with the proposals I was bringing forth.
Writer Max Vanzi noted Hill’s reputation in a California Journal article in 1999:
“… her personal non-confrontational style, … a veritable soul of fairness and balance as she goes about analyzing data, dispensing advice and issuing the LAO’s carefully researched reports that land regularly on the desks of state officials and others.”
Vanzi went on to report: “Cracked one Capitol reporter unable to find fault with Hill, "She’s the budget nun."” The moniker stuck.
Hill herself noted in an article the role of her office in a partisan landscape filled with landmines: “A more partisan environment, however, can increase the importance of our office’s role as a neutral third party able to provide decision makers with reliable information and advice.”
But she also made it clear that, “I cannot take a position substituting my philosophical preferences for those of decision makers.”
Liz Hill is the definition of a public servant. As she sets to retire, perhaps an appropriate symbol of recognition in this Alice in Wonderland budget world we are living through once again is for the Governor to offer an exemption to his current executive order and declare that Liz Hill is worth a lot more to California than $6.55 an hour.