Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is California Governor Brown the Real Terminator?

The May Revision of Governor Brown's proposed budget is out on the street, listing more than 30 boards and commissions slated for termination. An additional handful are due for realignment and 15 programs within agencies are slated for closure or at least reduction. Reduction in state government promises to be significant with Senate Pro Tem Steinberg on the same page going after dysfunctional boards and commissions and Chairpersons Lara (Joint Legislative Audits Committee) and Huber (Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee) focused on reviewing effectiveness of state agencies.

So far, those on the opposite side of the aisle appear receptive to these reductions and if so, the long polarized California State Legislature may have found a pivotal point for cooperation. Of course, proposals must translate to action, but if accomplished, look for approval ratings for the government to be on the rise.

These proposed realignments and closures may be only the first steps in an incremental and systematic process where the closure or realignment of one function, obviates the closure and realignment of others.

For example, the elimination of the Mining and Geology Board, one of the oldest boards in the state, and  realignment of the Recycling Division two years ago have significantly diminished the role of the Department of Conservation. Governor Schwarzenegger sought proposals to eliminate the department eight years ago. Now, with piecemeal dismantling, the entire Department of Conservation stands in line for termination. Moving the Williamson Act program into a realigned State Lands function will leave the remaining Conservation divisions more sensibly under the purview of the State Geologist. This will require that the management of state mining, geothermal, oil and gas, seismic and geohazards analysis, and mineral resources all be led by someone with significant expertise in these fields and not by the completely unqualified and inexperienced wife or son of political favorites as during the past eight years.

As long as we catch the government in a terminating mood, they can collapse the State Seismic safety Commission under the State Geologist and move the Seismic Engineering Branch of the Department of Water Resources and the Division of Earthquake Engineering From Caltrans over, too. Then (as novel as this idea in California may be) the different departments can work collaboratively together. Right now, they don't and duplication in just the area of seismic safety and engineering is so fractured in the state that it takes major agreements and pushing funding around just to use each other's data. That is the state using the state's information.

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