Easier than fixing our budget mess…

Former California Congressman (and former White House Chief of Staff) Leon Panetta has been tapped to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

He was making news recently as co-chair (and perhaps most visible spokesperson) of California Forward, a bipartisan, foundation-funded effort to remake state government, especially our budget process. They have a range of broad proposals, including multi-year budgeting and increased oversight and evaluation of programs.

Certainly, there are some reforms here that could help build the trust with the public needed to have a functioning government. My critique is that even if all these changes are made, they fundamentally won’t prevent the gridlock that we’ve seen.

The core issue is the lack of accountability brought about by the 2/3 rule to pass a budget or taxes, allowing a tyranny of the minority: a relative handful of legislators (as few as 14 Senators) can block the entire budget, and yet are insulated from consequences. The majority can then hide behind the obstruction of the minority, and thus everybody escapes accountability. California Forward has the right theme, but it seems their desire for buy-in from both parties prevents them from confronting this core issue (as well as others, like ballot-box budgeting that gives the Legislature little discretion to begin with.)

John Myers of KQED interviewed Panetta a few weeks ago, before he moved on. California Forward will certainly move forward without him… we’ll see how its proposals evolve, as the budget discussion continues.

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