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Sacramento Bee
Jul 31, 2004 - 01:00 AM

by Margaret Talev and John Hill, Bee Capitol Bureau

Pare down, state urged;

Governor's task force likely to recommend slashing jobs, board posts and agencies.
The task force assembled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to streamline California's bureaucracy is expected next week to recommend eliminating 12,000 state jobs, wiping out hundreds of paid political patronage posts on state boards and commissions, consolidating agencies and departments, and shifting regulatory and political powers from lawmakers into the hands of the governor.

A 2,500-page draft copy of the California Performance Review, reviewed Friday by The Bee, reaches into every corner of state government, encouraging more privatization of services and touching millions of Californians, from kindergartners to college students to elderly renters, from licensed drivers to lottery enthusiasts to people infected with HIV.

If all the recommendations were implemented, the report says, the state could save $32 billion over the next five years - ambitious even for a state with an annual budget of $105 billion.

"These recommendations are not only common-sense solutions to the problems facing California, they also promote your vision of a more stable and accessible government," the panel's co-directors, Billy Hamilton and Chon Gutierrez, wrote in a preface to the governor.

Not everyone was ready to embrace the suggestions.

Consumer watchdogs criticized what they described as a secretive five-month process by which 275 state workers who signed confidentiality agreements compiled suggestions.

"The governor promised that he would make California government more transparent and more accessible to the public," said Doug Heller of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer Consumer Rights. "Now he has called for the biggest reorganization and dissolution of government in California history, developed behind closed doors and with gag orders on the participants whose salaries are paid by taxpayers."

The report does detail 1,800 individuals and groups who submitted ideas. They included academics, state agencies, unions and businesses such as General Electric and Chevron.

J.J. Jelincic, president of the California State Employees Association, said the loss of 12,000 jobs - about 5.5 percent of state employees - on top of 25,000 jobs cut in the past three budgets, would impair services.

"They have simply stretched the work force as tight as it will go," he said. "It's a political agenda."

Government ethicists cited concerns the report did not begin to address - such as whether private companies that take on more state work would be subject to the same conflict-of-interest and open-government laws, and how much outsourcing would occur.

"Maybe that saves money, if you don't have to provide health care for these people, if you pay them minimum wage, or you send the jobs overseas and it's done in India," said Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

Still, Stern said he expects some good to come from the report. "Some of this, I'm sure, is innovative. And that's great," he said.

Proposals include:

- Changing the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment, from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 of each year, so that children under 5 are not in over their heads in school.

- Requiring public college and university students to perform community service in order to receive their diplomas.

- Phasing out the Homeowners and Renters Assistance Program. It provides about 475,000 subsidies a year, each averaging $307, for elderly and disabled renters.

- Computerizing the written portion of driver's license exams, giving would-be drivers the answers to questions they miss and allowing them to keep going until they get enough correct to pass. That could save $4 million a year in administrative costs; advocates say there is no evidence of a correlation between how well drivers do on the written tests and how well they drive.

- Having California join a multistate lottery that could raise more money for public education by getting people to buy more tickets because of larger jackpots.

- Using a confidential, name-based public health reporting system for HIV cases as is done with AIDS cases. It could be more accurate and protect federal public health dollars; opponents fear it could scare some away from testing.

- Offering a 5 percent sales tax credit on manufacturing and telecommunications equipment; streamlining business permits.

- Increasing the number of toll roads; turning thousands of miles of state highway maintenance over to counties.

- Consolidating 11 agencies and 79 departments into 11 departments. Wrapping budgeting and personnel departments into a new Office of Management and Budget and putting police, court, investigative and emergency functions under a new Public Safety and Homeland Security department. Privatizing local child-support services and abolishing county boards of education.

The report also recommends eliminating 118 of 339 boards and commissions, including 1,153 appointed positions.

This includes boards that provide licensing and consumer and environmental protections. In many cases, the task force found that the functions of a board or commission could be handled by a streamlined executive branch directly under the governor.

The stated benefits include a cost savings - just the 17 boards and commissions with the highest-paid members cost more than $9 million a year to run - and making the governor more directly accountable to the public.

Consumer advocates have some concerns that eliminating some boards and commissions could make the regulatory process more secretive or give a governor too much power.

But Stern said many appointee posts are simply vehicles for governors and lawmakers to reward retired politicians and special-interest campaign contributors.

"I do have a problem with a former legislator who serves on a commission getting paid $120,000 a year for working three or four days a month," Stern said. "It's a halfway house for legislators."

The recommendations are a long way from implementation.

The report is expected to be submitted to the governor on Tuesday. Later this summer, statewide hearings will be held to seek public input. This fall, the governor could decide which ideas to pursue.

Some adjustments could be accomplished by executive order, but most would need legislative approval as individual bills, voter approval as constitutional amendments, or could be folded into an omnibus reorganization plan to be submitted to lawmakers next year. Lawmakers could either accept such a package without modification or reject it.

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, said he has told the governor that any controversial omnibus plan likely would be rejected.

"I'm sure there's some stuff that makes a lot of sense and some stuff that makes no sense, and it all gets lumped together," Burton said. "Having the governor control every school system in the state doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

The Governor's Office declined to comment on specifics, saying it had not formally received the report. Communications director Rob Stutzman said the governor would act deliberatively, weighing potential cost savings against concerns raised by individuals who might be affected.

"There's probably going to be some ideas here that gore certain oxes," Stutzman said. "The real question will be, do opponents have merit to their argument, or is it purely out of self-interest or special interest?"

At a glance These are among the boards proposed for elimination by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's government review team:

* Architects Board * Landscape Architect Technical Committee * Banking Advisory Council * Board of Barbering and Cosmetology * Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors * California Horse Racing Board * Contractors' State Licensing Board * Court Reporters Board * Credit Union Advisory Committee * Electronic Commerce Advisory Council * Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee * New Motor Vehicle Board * Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun * Private Security Disciplinary Review Commission (North/South) * Alarm Company Operator Disciplinary Review Committee * Real Estate Advisory Commission * Service Agency Advisory Committee * Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board * Agricultural Cooperative Bargaining Advisory Committee * Apprenticeship Council * Commission of the Californias * Commission for Economic Development * Commission on Health and Safety and Worker's Compensation * Committee for the Employment of People With Disabilities * Employment Training Panel * Fair Employment and Housing Commission * Industrial Welfare Commission * Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board * Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board * Rehabilitation Appeals Board * Small Business Board * Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board * Air Resources Board * Board of Geologists and Geophysicists * Boating and Waterways Commission * Board of Forestry and Fire Protection * Colorado River Board * Delta Protection Commission * Heritage Preservation Commission * Historical Resources Commission * Integrated Waste Management Board * Interagency Aquatic Invasive Species Council * Oil Spill Technical Advisory Commission * Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreational Commission * State Lands Commission * State Water Resources Control Board * Regional Water Quality Control Boards * Structural Pest Control Board * Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority * Board of Reclamation * Building Standards Commission * California Transportation Commission * California Water Commission * Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority * Departmental Transportation Advisory Committee * Electricity Oversight Board * Energy Commission * High Speed Rail Authority * Low-Income Oversight Board * Public Library Construction and Renovation Board * Public Works Board * Seismic Safety Commission * State Allocation Board * Tax Credit Allocation Committee * Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Advisory Committee * California Career Resources Network * Community College Board of Governors * Education Audit Appeals Board * California Postsecondary Education Commission * Quality of Education Commission
* Student Aid Commission * Loan Advisory Council * Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine Advisory Committee * California Commission on Aging * Child Development Policy Advisory Committee * Health Policy and Data Advisory Commission * Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and Treatment Task Force * Department of Managed Care Advisory Committee and Clinical Advisory Panel * Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board * Medical Assistance Commission * Rural Health Policy Council * 911 Advisory Board * Commission on Emergency Medical Services * State Board of Fire Services * Campus Sexual Assault Task Force * Racial Profiling Panel * Board of Prison Terms * Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission * Joint Venture Policy Advisory Board * Narcotics Addiction Evaluation Authority * Prison Industry Authority * Youth Authority Board * Athletic Commission * Bipartisan Commission on Internet Political Practices *
Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind * Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs * Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance Education Task Force * Commission on the Status of Women * Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission * Commission on Uniform State Laws* Franchise Tax Board * Summer School for the Arts Board of Trustees * Veterans Board * Governor's Commission on Veterans Cemeteries
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The Bee's Margaret Talev can be reached at (916) 326-5540 or mtalev@sacbee.com




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