California Is Governable. Really!

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

Here’s something you don’t hear everyday: No question about it, California is governable.

So said Bill Hauck, president of the California Business Roundtable, relaying his own views to the “Getting to Reform” conference hosted by Cal State Sacramento, UC Berkeley and Stanford in Sacramento yesterday. Hauck’s been through these reform efforts many times before. He chaired the state’s Constitution Revision Commission, was co-chair of the California Performance Review Commission, and recently was a member of the Commission on the 21st Century Economy. Inside the capitol building, Hauck served as deputy chief of staff to a governor, and chief of staff to two Assembly speakers.

Many have claimed that California’s size, diversity, and political structure make it impossible to govern. Hauck is convinced that the state can be governed with strong leadership and a change in priorities.

He said the important ingredient to make California work is a leader who can tap in the strong feeling of voters that we must work toward the greater good. He says the problem is that those who practice politics are most often looking after themselves, paying more attention to “us” rather than to “them” (meaning future generations.) He tagged both interest groups and legislators with this flaw. Legislators think: what must I do to get re-elected or move on to another office?

While acknowledging that voters should have cynicism about government, Hauck said the trust of the people in the legislative process has vanished and it must be restored.

The second step toward reform is a simple order, but apparently given recent history, difficult to do. Tough decisions have to be made to make the government function.

You cannot build a strong California on massive debt, Hauck warned. He pointed to the Legislative Analyst’s report that showed the state sitting on $200 billion in debt and liabilities. That could potentially choke the state, Hauck said.

He cited historian Kevin Starr’s recent query: Will California be the first failed state?

To avoid that, Hauck, said systematic changes must be made. He supported the redistricting initiative that passed last year but said that was not enough. Hauck passionately argued for the open primary measure on the June ballot. He also argued for a change in term limits to allow elected officials to serve longer and proposed changes in the budget process including a two-year budget and performance based budgeting.

California is governable, Hauck insisted, but action must be taken now. “Even if we make a bad decision it is better than making no decision.”

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