01/26/2011 by Bob Hertzberg & Tom McKernan

Your role in moving California Forward

Cross-posted from the San Francisco Chronicle

Californians are speaking decisively about the fiscal and governance crisis gripping our state, and their message is clear: Fix this mess and fix it now. In a recent survey commissioned by California Forward, 78 percent of Californians say government dysfunction and the budget mess are serious, and 80 percent say these problems directly affect them and their families.

The vast majority of Californians – 86 percent – also believe we can fix the problem.  Californians imagine, innovate, and build. It’s what we do.  Of course we can figure this out. 

So where would most Californians start?  It’s simple: They want our leaders to do what it takes to make programs work, they expect value for money, they want accountability, and they want the truth. “A truly informed public would help,” said one survey respondent. “Explain that you can't have lower taxes and still expect schools to have teachers and get police. Educate people on which programs work and which are just political maneuvering.” 

Since its inception, California Forward has worked to produce a government that encourages elected officials to solve problems, such as voter-driven redistricting, open primaries and better fiscal management to earn taxpayers’ trust. We are governed by a bipartisan board, and we are dedicated to nonpartisan solutions – which while difficult, are absolutely possible. 

Right now, California Forward is encouraging all Californians to share ideas for fixing the state. For a real solution to take root, Californians will need be on board. This means engaging now in informed, constructive discussion about exciting new approaches to governance, as well as about painful trade-offs needed to get the state back on track. California Forward’s top priority is to ensure Californians have ways to be part of this discussion. 

With regard to the state budget, Governor Brown has called for tough love and we believe Californians are ready. Californians want to know lawmakers will get the state’s fiscal house in order - and keep it that way for the foreseeable future.  In addition to short term solutions to this year’s jaw-dropping shortfall, this will require the following common sense, nonpartisan reforms:

  • Budgets based on performance and results to ensure quality service and restore taxpayer confidence
  • Multiyear budgeting to ensure a balanced budget and long-term, responsible fiscal planning
  • Clearly identified funding for new programs and tax breaks before they are enacted
  • Limits on “one-time revenue” so it goes toward “one-time” purposes only, such as saving for hard times or paying down debt. 

In our own lives, Californians make sure we get what we pay for, don’t spend what we don’t have, and save for emergencies. Government must do the same.

Next, as the Governor has proposed, California needs to return responsibility for essential services like education and public safety to local communities.  We need to do this in a way that ensures local programs work well for the Californians they serve, local governments have the flexibility to work together, and local leaders are held accountable for results.

There’s more we need to do, but these reforms alone have the power to dramatically transform how California is governed, and we could have the opportunity to enact them this year.

Putting in place this new democracy, this new way to govern ourselves, is the challenge of our lifetimes. This is a Kennedy moment, and Californians are accepting the challenge. The Nicolas Berggruen Institute’s Think Long Committee is distilling the wisdom of internationally acclaimed Californians who care deeply about fixing our state and want to be part of the solution. California Forward is working with Californians from Eureka to Calexico to identify the right solutions and organize a voice for reform.  California Forward’s work is supported by some of California’s leading charitable foundations, collectively making a groundbreaking investment in this critical endeavor.

What do you want this state to be? What role can you play in getting us there? The mind and muscle of every Californian will be needed to do this right -- so if you can make some time, let’s talk…  

Chat with Bob Hertzberg

The former Assembly speaker will chat today on how you can help fix California.

To join the conversation: Go to www.sfgate.com/blogs/opinionshop. Click on the large icon and sign in. You will get a reminder.

Categories: Selected Blog Posts, Bob Hertzberg, Civic Engagement, Leadership Council, Tom McKernan

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