When we talk with other Californians, we hear the same message repeatedly: State government isn't delivering on its promise of public service. Dealing with government is frustrating, confusing and doesn't make sense.
We hear this from education leaders. We hear it from community service providers. We hear it from big- and small-business owners. We hear it in cities large and small. We hear it from people with no particular skin in the game other than the most important: their hard-earned tax dollars.
Sadly, we rarely hear anyone confident that government will right itself.
In late March, Gov. Jerry Brown took an important and thoughtful step toward addressing these long-standing complaints about how government fails to serve its constituents. He proposed a dramatic reorganization of California state government that would move it toward greater accountability and simpler management, while reducing the amount of money the state spends on operations. The Little Hoover Commission has approved the plan and submitted it to the Legislature.
If approved, this proposal has the potential to cut costs, create efficiencies, maximize effectiveness and establish a higher quality of government service and consumer protection. It would do, in short, what any smart business would do when faced with government's low customer satisfaction marks. It would address those customer complaints.
Nothing in the governor's proposal is radical. Nothing outright blows up the system as it stands. Instead, these are common sense, pragmatic and practical reforms that deserve bipartisan legislative support.
Broadly speaking, the reorganization would accomplish three things: simplify interaction with the public by reducing red tape; eliminate existing overlapping and redundant oversight; and strengthen Sacramento's role in job creation.
It would accomplish these goals by reducing the total number of agencies from 12 to 10 while creating three consolidated agencies with industry-relevant boards and departments. The purpose of this shift is the creation of logical "one-stop shops" for licensing business and addressing critical infrastructure needs.
The restructuring would bring the state's economic development functions such as tourism and film commissions and the state's economic development bank into the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. This would reduce the confusion for private sector businesses that interact with those boards and departments.
And it would consolidate a number of essential government functions into one area, the Government Operations Agency, so anyone dealing with the government will not have to guess which agency or bureau is the right one.
We urge the governor to follow the reorganization with a set of program performance metrics that would permit objective measurement of the proposed cost efficiencies. In doing so California would join other states and the federal government in adopting and using performance measures for its programs.
The governor's ideas address the complaint we hear across the state about the difficulty in dealing with government. Business owners trying to open or expand should not be hampered by wasted effort running from agency to agency in search of the proper authority, or be forced to spend money on resolving bureaucratic problems that should be put toward development and investment. Individuals trying to address basic issues whether involving their homes, businesses or fundamental government services should not be frustrated by a labyrinth of ridiculously convoluted government bureaucracy.
Neither of us is naïve enough to think that this one reorganization of our government will end inefficiencies in Sacramento. We have been involved with government reform dating back to reinventing government days of the 1990s and co-chaired the California Performance Review Commission in the early 2000s. We know state government is a complicated net of regulatory agencies, multi-layered permitting processes and duplicative oversight bodies.
This won't change overnight. But we believe the governor's proposal is an excellent move toward a more rational organization of government. These recommendations are remarkably consistent with past proposals, including Gov. Pete Wilson's competitive government initiative. Over the years, they have rightly earned support from both Democrats and Republicans though never enough to overcome the entrenched interests that do not want to upset the status quo by changing their relationships with the boards, commissions and agencies that they have learned to navigate to their benefit.
The time has come for us to think about what will benefit California instead of narrow special interests. This reorganization, in conjunction with further regulatory reform and job creation efforts, will pay dividends for the state's economy and all its residents.
The governor has a good plan. We hope the Legislature will listen and build on it for a better California.