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Tony Strickland: Breaking California's bureaucratic gridlock

Posted: April 19, 2010 11:19 a.m.
Updated: April 19, 2010 11:19 a.m.
 
If the first few months of 2010 are any indication, California is in for another lengthy and arduous budget battle.

The governor declared a fiscal emergency in January, giving lawmakers 45 days to deliver a plan to close our state's $20 billion shortfall.

While legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed drastic measures must be taken to close the budget gap, the end result was a proposal that fell far too short.

Everyone in our state knows we have a budget crisis on our hands and that cuts must be made to help balance the budget. So why isn't it getting done?

As lawmakers get to work balancing the budget, it is clear spending will be cut significantly. The question is not only where, but how.
Lawmakers will fight to protect needed services and education. But who will ensure that the bureaucracy clogging our state and eating at its budget is proportionately trimmed as well?

While both Democrat and Republican lawmakers agree that needless bureaucracy affects numerous state programs, no one wants their district or particular interests significantly disrupted.

One way to break this cyclical gridlock is to enact a non-partisan panel to identify and effectively reduce wasteful bureaucracy in our state.

My bill, Senate Bill 835, would create the Bureaucracy Realignment and Closure Commission.

This commission, made up of a non-partisan panel of analysts, would be charged with identifying, downsizing, or eliminating obsolete or duplicate state bureaucracies.

The commission is modeled and named after the U.S. military Base Realignment and Closure process established by the federal government to identify and close obsolete military bases. The federal program has successfully saved an estimated $20 billion annually with past rounds of military base closures.

The key to the federal program was creating a non-partisan panel of analysts who, unlike the lawmakers, had no vested interests to protect unneeded military bases in a particular district.

California's version of bureaucracy realignment and closure would break through the "not in my back yard" approach to cost-cutting by our state's lawmakers - who agree cuts must be made but can't agree where.

By taking a crucial evaluation process out of the political arena, our state can come closer to being run like a business.

Raising taxes simply isn't an option. Taxpayers are stretching their means to stay in homes that have plummeted in value.

Benefits are being slashed, and the cost of everything is rising. This will not stimulate economic growth or even stability.

The fat must be trimmed from the middle, and there needs to be an organized effort that will carefully, honestly and effectively realign and remove needless bureaucratic waste.

That is why the three major taxpayer organizations in this state - the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, The National Tax-Limitation Committee, and People's Advocate - support my bill.

Last summer, the governor signed into law a bill I authored to cut wasteful spending by eliminating the Integrated Waste Management Board.

Senate Bill 63 was designed to reduce our budget shortfall by eliminating a board and its members who were paid six-figure salaries to meet once or twice a month.

While I consider the passing of my legislation a victory for California taxpayers, we have a long way to go to further reduce waste, fraud and abuse in Sacramento.

While state spending is being reduced, it is critical that we carefully track the money that is allocated to various programs.

If we are going to ask schoolchildren, people in need, and the people who care for them to accept less funding, we need to eliminate bloated middlemen bureaucracies.

While massive spending problems exist, effectively identifying and changing these patterns is no delicate matter, similar to the closing of hundreds of military bases throughout our country.

SB 835 aims to treat our state's budget with the same care and effectiveness so that deserving recipients are not left high and dry while we trim the fat from California's wasteful bureaucracies.

California's businesses and taxpayers need a watchdog alliance to ensure the money that is allocated for needed programs reaches the intended recipients and bypasses the bureaucratic machine.

Tony Strickland, R-Simi Valley, is senator for California's 19th District, which takes in part of the Santa Clarita Valley. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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