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PD Editorial: Yes on 31: A bipartisan reform plan

  • (TOM MEYER / meyertoons.com)

What word best describes California’s state government?

How about broken?

We suspect most people share that assessment. In the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, 68 percent of likely voters disapproved of the Legislature’s performance. That’s an improvement over a record 86 percent disapproval rating two years ago, but it’s nothing to brag about. And it doesn’t reflect optimism for the future: Two-thirds said the state is headed in the wrong direction.

A dysfunctional Legislature isn’t solely responsible for Californians’ bleak outlook, but a more effective government would help restore some of the Golden State’s lost luster.

No single ballot measure is going to fix all of the problems plaguing state government. Heck, there isn’t anything approaching a consensus on what all of those problems are. But some of them would be alleviated if voters approve Proposition 31 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Proposition 31 would:

• Require legislators to identify a source of funding — or corresponding spending cuts — to pay for any new program costing more than $25 million.

• Establish a two-year budget cycle to encourage more long-term planning and discourage the use of accounting gimmicks to mask deficits.

• Require performance goals in state and local budgets and performance evaluations for all state programs.

• Permit the governor to unilaterally cut spending if legislators don’t act within 45 days after the declaration of a fiscal emergency.

• Prohibit the Legislature from acting on bills that haven’t been available to the public for at least three days. (There’s an exception for disaster-related legislation.)

• Gives cities and counties greater flexibility in how they manage state-funded programs and apportion property tax revenue.

These modest reforms emerged from bipartisan efforts to make state government more efficient, more transparent and, ultimately, more effective.

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