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A modest proposal to save California

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POSTED June 17, 2009 3:22 a.m.

The party’s over.

It’s time to detox California government.

The only way to do that is to stop the dependency by reeling in the pushers and making the addicts go cold turkey.

The pushers – your friendly neighborhood legislator who entices you with grants and funding in exchange for your vote every two or four years – need to be severely restricted.     The only way to do that is to dilute their power. And today in California money is absolute power.

The addicts – you and me – need to get a reality check. It’ll mean a year or so of pure economic hell but it is the  only way we can come out of this as a healthy state of people and not a bunch of codependents on the taxes Sacramento takes from us and then doles back to us with more strings than on a grand piano.

Since the pushers have no incentive to change the rules of the game as it would dilute their power, perhaps the people need to do it for them through ballot measures.

It is what partially got us into this mess when politicians ignored the will of the people and it can get us out of the mess.

Here are a couple of possible ballot propositions:

1. Limit the number of bills a legislator can introduce to two per session.

That comes to 240 pieces of legislation that can be considered. It would force our elected leaders to think long and hard about what they advance. It would cut down on frivolous bills and make it real difficult for them to pander to special interests as the less gumming up the system, the more transparent everything else becomes. How can this save money? Easy. Every rule, every program, every tax break, every regulation costs money.

2. Dismantle the California Department of Education and create up to a dozen super regional offices controlled by the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Also shift all financial accountability functions to the Department of Finance. This must be done with the net reduction of 80 percent of all Department of Education jobs with the remaining 20 percent to be split evenly between the state level and regional offices of education.

 This helps end a long running charade. Despite local districts and county offices of education all of our schools are state-run schools. There is not a need for 50 or so county offices of education that – in their most basic form – run duplicate programs that could be overseen on a more regional scale and simply do the bean counting for the state. As for charges this is impossible to do, the folks up in Sacramento have been challenging teachers for years to advance critical thinking and problem solving in the classroom. It’s time they tried it themselves within the parameters established by voters.

3. Reduce compensation for all state oversight boards to $10,000 a year with the only expense allowed being mileage to and from meetings plus one night to stay in a hotel not to exceed $120 providing the meeting is more than 180 miles away from the appointee’s home.

Why should any oversight board make $100,000-plus a year? They should function as citizen politicians much like school board members and their pay should be significantly less than staff is paid.

4. Reduce all remaining state employee positions – excluding public safety, parks systems, and road maintenance – by 25 percent.

Innovation has come from downsizing in the private sector as well as the public sector. Just look at Manteca Unified and other local districts. When forced to, it is amazing how you can rethink how you do business. Does it add pressure and workload? You betcha. Why should the public sector be any different now that they have surpassed the overall private sector in terms of wages, benefactors, and retirement?

5. Establish a blue ribbon panel appointed by the Chief Justice of California to examine state agencies, identify duplicity with the mandate that whatever agency the panel decides must go or drop the function must be implemented within 120 days of the panel’s final report being issued. The panel must consist of two environmentalists, two independent farmers, two businessmen (one must have an independent business with 50 or less employees), two taxpayer advocates, two health care advocates, two local elected officials (one for cities under 40,000 and the other for cities above 40,000), two k-12 public school teachers, two state elected officials, two county elected officials (one from a county under 250,000 people and one for a county larger than 250,000 people) and two retired judges. The panel needs to be installed within 120 days of passage of the proposition with a mandate their report be completed within 240 calendar days. The report must identify in the agency that “loses out” and the number of jobs that are connected with that function and those jobs must be eliminated within 120 days.

We are not going to end duplicity if it is left in the hands of politicians and employee groups. The ark approach excluding bureaucrats – supervisorial and employees – assures the interests represented will be that of what is best for California, not to protect jobs.

It is time for all of us to get sober and that means shedding destructive habits and expectations we’ve accumulated over the past 40 years.

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