What you think about reforming California

Results updated 7/27/09: below in blue ink.

The last few days we’ve been in Sacramento at the Cities Counties Schools Partnership Summit, Rebuilding California from the Ground Up. Along with about 500 other local electeds and administrators, we worked to identify and flesh out potential options to address the dysfunction at the state level. Obviously, dysfunction is manifested via the failure to solve our budget crisis, but that is actually a symptom of some more serious systemic problems. 

Friday night at about midnight, I put out a call for opinions on a range of options for reforming California’s broken governance system. To date, 46 of you have completed the survey and although I wouldn’t say the survey was random or scientific, the results are interesting. If 46 doesn’t sound like many, hey, we’re a small county!

 Q.1 The state should not be able to divert or borrow local tax revenues to fund state programs or state mandated services.  Of 46 responses, 78.3% agree, 15.2%  disagree, and 6.5% depends.

Q.2 Budgets should be multi-year, performance based, and establish prudent reserves to achieve measurable outcomes and improved stability during periods of financial turmoil. Of 46 responses, 91.3% agree, 6.5% depends, and  2.2% disagree.     

Q.3 New programs or mandated funding obligations should be approved only if the budget authorizes a new, dedicated, reliable, and adequate funding source or explicitly provides for measurable offsetting in state or local operations. Of 46 responses, 93.5% agree, 6.5% depends, and 0% disagree 

Q.4 Change requirements for legislative approval of state budget and tax increases (currently 2/3 vote requirement). Updated results appear in blue. Of 46 responses:

Reduce vote requirement for approval of state budget and tax increases              28.3%
Reduce vote required for state budget only (keep 2/3 for raising taxes).              26.1%
Keep 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases and state budget approval…           26.1%
Require voter approval                                                                                                   19.6%


Q.5 Require new funding sources for statewide ballot measures that impose new obligations. Of 46 responses,  84.8% agree,   6.5% disagree, and 8.7% depends.

Q.6 Require periodic legislative reauthorization of existing programs (every 10 years) – especially those that have increased in cost faster than state revenue growth. Upon completion of evaluation with Legislative Analyst’s office, continuation of programs should be contingent on reauthorization and funding by the legislature. Of 46 responses,  78.3% agree,   2.2% disagree, and 19.6% depends. 

Q.7 Reform term limits: either eliminate or extend the length of service for legislators to achieve greater effectiveness and responsiveness to priorities of the people, including changes on how they are elected, limits on the length of their terms, duration of legislative session, and the way in which the legislature operates.  Of 46 responses,  60.9% agree,  23.9% disagree, and  15.2% depends. 

Q.8 Institute open primaries to eliminate ideological extremes (nonpartisan open primaries wherein voters could vote for any state or congressional candidate, regardless of voter’s party registration). The two top voter getters, regardless of party, would compete in the general election. Of 46 responses,  78.3% agree,  15.2% disagree, and  6.5% depends. 

Q.9 Increase legislative transparency (legislature should not operate in secret but should function under same open meetings and open records requirements as local governments and no legislation should be enacted without being publicly available and published for 24 hours prior to action). Of 46 responses,  84.8% agree,  13% depends, and 2.2% disagree. 

Q.10 Shorten legislative sessions, financially reward time in district (90-180 days in session per year and rest of time, legislators attend to business with constituents, not in Sacramento). Of 46 responses,  69.6% agree,  19.6% depends, and 10.9% disagree.


One person felt so passionately about what’s happening in California that he didn’t confine himself to answering multiple choice questions. You may disagree or agree with him, but you can’t ignore that his comments represent the feelings of a growing segment of society in California. Here’s what my friend Ted wrote:

This is my response to the poll your office sent out and my response was to long for the remarks box, so here is what I think about our elected officials and spending more than the rate of taxes they put on us.

 The items mentioned are  not going to reform the California what is needed is responsible representatives, not puppets of special interests and business .  Provide , schools, roads, tax for the benefit of all.   I know why the people south of our border want to be here, I don’t fault them  for wanting to better themselves and provide for their families, but we should not care for their health care, retirement without them paying into the system for 50 years like most of us.   The government wants to make them legal so that the 15 to 20 million of them can benefit from Medical, Medicare, Social Security Benefits without  paying into it.    As of now we don’t have a representative government,  we have a vote for the person we like the ideas most,  do what they think is right, not what the majority of the people want, not do the will of the people, not care for the governments job, provide schools, roads, etc.  instead our elected officials seem to make a lot of money for themselves, spend tax dollars we don’t have.  The Question:  Why spend millions on a campaign for a $100,000 year job? Common sense says only if they get a substantial return on their investment.  State and Federal representatieves get power, money, the best retirement of any profession.   Case in point:  will  the Congress have the same Health Care Plan that all the rest of us will end up with Obamacare?  They will retire with 1000 times more benefits in ‘their’ health plan than 99% of the rest of us.   Taxes. . .  to pay for health care Obama wants to tax my health care benefits, (no tax increase for anyone under $250,000). At  my tax bill  14% benefits at $12,000: year my personal income tax will increases by $1,400,  that’s is my vacation money, or house improvement money, etc.   Then with an additional Cap n’ Trade tax on my gas, LP, Electricity,  and on and on and on  I don’t see an end to spend, spend, spend, spend money that the all the governments don’t have.  I have never been without a job, I made decisions to pay my bills, and try to work to live.  Now I feel  I am living to work. . . for others,    that won’t or can’t work.   My wife works for the State of CA.  She now has a 18% cut in pay, and we feel lucky with that, others have lost their job, or both worked for the government and now, one is working at 18% cut and the other is not working.  Now Obama says that heath care is a right that everyone should get, (including illegals),  like the pursuit of happiness, so everyone in the US now will receive free health care, they are now illegal aliens, but with a stroke of a pen they will receive health  benefits without ever putting money into the system like I have for 50 years.   Personally I think that all the free benefits giving to Illegal’s here is California has cost our government the 20 billion that we are now short for a budget.    When the real estate market with into orbit, even I thought it couldn’t last, my wife wanted to sell (at $350k) and buy at $400k, I couldn’t afford that but a lot of my wife’s coworkers did, and now are walking away and renting.   Why mention this?  because the state congress spent the inflated tax rate,  before the money even  got to the state coffers and then those funds  ended up going up in smoke.   To me that was irresponsible and put us in the deficit column at the State and Federal  level that we are now in.   California is going to default on 20 bil.  I just heard that the money now sent to the state will stay at the state and the city and counties will have to tax or fund the difference somehow, That means the state taxes won’t go up but everthing else will.  Is the USA going to default when the bill comes for 3 trillion in ten years?   Is the Federal government going to take our property taxes like the state?  Or are we going to have an inflation rate that makes a Starbucks cost $350 each?   That is where I think all this is going. . .   I am not optimistic about the future even immediate future.    If the Federal taxes proposed, and State Taxes go up, County taxes must also rise.  My income will be about 25% lower than before.    I don’t like working for someone else to have the American Dream, but not me. 

4 thoughts on “What you think about reforming California

  1. WOW! Your friend had a lot to say,However, it's the same old thing that has been in the letters to the editor of the local and other news papers bashing Obama. This has been comming for over 2 years and now that it's here people are all surprised!! It doesn't matter who's governor of California now, it's time for the Federal Goverment to take this state over. This state can not file bankruptcy, no state can but the feds can put someone in charge. Southern California and the rest of the Republicans put another actor in charge and this is what you get! Democrats need to go as well, you want to be heard don't vote for the same old senators and don't give more than 4 years to any governor and a max of 6 years to senators..


  2. The whole system is smells from the state to Washington. How do we get these folks to care about the country instead of their own party or their own selfish interests. Is there a constitutional situation for changing everyone from the president down and keep changing them until we get the right group or until the appointed ones understand that we are tired of what's going on.

    All these things that are being voted in and the people that we have voted in to office DON'T EVEN READ WHAT THEIR SIGNING. I really don't think any of us individually would just go ahead and sign documents without reading them. Reading and voting on bills for the best interest of the nation is what I expect from what I loosely call our current leadership.

    This Cap thing, Universal Health Care, more taxes, more borrowing by the government should not even be on the table now that the greatest nation in the world is almost under water. Please save the USA and stop the spending!


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