|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, May 10, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle 5-10-04
Governor's big revamp is delayed
Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged in January to "blow up boxes" by completely overhauling state government, but the dynamite is being stuck in a drawer and major changes may be on hold until next year.
An ambitious plan to reorganize state government is finished, but administration officials have decided to hold off on its release, those familiar with the process said.
"It's like a rocket launch -- you have several different launch windows, " said Billy Hamilton, co-executive director of the California Performance Review. The review was created in early February by Schwarzenegger as part of his promise to clean up state government.
Instead of moving forward with a complete shakeup of the state's departments and agencies now, the team will continue its work by focusing on how the state spends its money and what processes can be put into place to make purchasing more efficient, Hamilton said.
The most dramatic suggestions in the restructuring plan include completely reshaping state agencies and eliminating hundreds of commissions and boards. The state has more than 100 departments and agencies, but recommendations call for government to function under a dozen or so larger departments.
For example, at least four different agencies now deal with collecting taxes. Under the proposed reorganization, all of those functions would be put under an Office of Management of Budget. That agency would also be in charge of state contracting and other fiscal matters.
"Right now, state government in California is an arcane, confusing, overlapping, duplicative management nightmare," said Larry McCarthy, president of the California Taxpayers Association. "The organizational chart developed over time with no logic and no accountability."
Other examples of areas that would be consolidated include energy, where now there are five boards or agencies with authority, and health and human services, where 13 state entities have oversight. Also likely to be proposed is an infrastructure department that would oversee things like transportation, energy and water.
The plan does not intend to eliminate state services, but to deliver them more efficiently. And in order to head off immediate opposition, reduction of state employees would be through attrition, not layoffs.
It won't be easy to challenge the status quo, although Schwarzenegger has shown no signs of being daunted, said Fred Silva, a senior adviser at the Public Policy Institute of California.
"He wants to do big things, and he has stretched the envelope using his executive power," he said. "I don't think he feels constrained by the past."
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, said he had not seen the proposals but is skeptical.
"It sounds like they're eliminating departments, which do the specifics, and turning the function over to agencies, which are generalists," he said. "That doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense."
Supporters said they expect there to be resistance to the proposed changes.
"There are interests all over Sacramento that like the current structure. They like not being accountable," McCarthy said. "But I think it is so foundational, so compelling, that the public will be very supportive of it."
Assemblyman John Campbell, R-Irvine, said he believes the state's budget woes have made lawmakers ready to accept the need for big changes.
"If you can cut bureaucracy rather than the programs or the services government provides, both Republicans and Democrats would rather see that," he said.
The California Performance Review team consists of 240 volunteer state workers who have been toiling in private, poring over old reports and suggestions sent in from their colleagues and others on how to make the state bureaucracy more efficient.
The deadline for submitting the complete reorganization plan to the governor is June 30. Administration officials had considered releasing the reorganization plan on April 30, but Burton said he told the administration he wouldn't be inclined to contemplate the plan during the hectic weeks surrounding the budget negotiations and the close of the legislative session.
Some of the proposals could be accomplished by executive order, but the administration intends to use the state's Little Hoover Commission to expedite the changes. The commission is an independent oversight panel that studies state government operations.
Under current law, changes to state government can be submitted to the commission for study; lawmakers then have 90 days to act. If lawmakers do nothing, the plan automatically goes into effect. But it takes only a majority vote in either the Assembly or Senate to kill it.
Given the legislative calendar this election year, the docket would spill over into January 2005. Burton said he might be willing to consider part of the proposal before the legislative session ends Aug. 31, and supporters of the plan have been urging the administration to not wait.
"The sooner we get a more rational organization, the sooner we see savings," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "There is no better time than to do it in conjunction with the budget process."
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