A recent Sacramento Bee report found that the State Board of Equalization has more offices than it did five years ago, but the number of public visit for offices fell by nearly one-half.
The sad reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sorry state of the efficiency, organization and accountability of California government.
Government reformers, including the California Revision Commission from the early 1990s and Governor Schwarzenegger's Performance Review, have found significant inefficiencies and overlapping responsibilities of California's statewide elected offices and government Departments.
When is the last time California government abolished a government agency? I recall that some have been renamed but they are rarely ever eliminated, despite major changes in the economy and the need for government oversight and functions.
I have studied this issue extensively and read dozens of reports and there is a consensus in the research that says California government has way too many statewide elected offices and too many boards and commissions. This creates a huge amount of inefficiencies, political infighting, duplicative costs, obscured accountability, and overall increase in the cost of government.
The state should start by abolishing the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) and its five "constitutional offices" (Note: one position is the Controller or their appointee). These positions are little more than a welfare program for politicians looking to advance to higher office or regroup after being termed out of the California Legislature.
The primary functions of the BOE, hearing appeals of tax matters could be done by an appointed board or tax court.
California is one of the few states that has three separate tax agencies--the Franchise Tax Board, the State Board of Equalization, and the Employment Development Department. The State BOE has long been deemed the most inefficient, least effected and most ripe for elimination or consolidation into the California Franchise Tax Board.
Numerous proposals have been floated on this issue over the years and there are solid proposals that could be enacted this budget season if need be. At the very least, the BOE could be appointed by the Administration, Controller and Legislature and significantly downsized based on actual need.
Second, California should also consolidate the California Treasurer's Office and California State Controller's Office into one office. There is no justifiable reason for having two separate positions and neither office has been particularly proactive in recent years in helping improve the fiscal management of California government or providing substantive fiscal oversight of the California Legislature or other State Agencies.
I believe both positions could be eliminated given the dominate roll of the Administration and Director of Finance on fiscal issues, and the lack of any other entity possessing the staff capacity and fiscal expertise to adequately scrutinize the Administration's fiscal projections or budget policies.
Another statewide constitutional office ripe for elimination is the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state already has a Board of Education, Department of Education, and local boards of Education. The Superintendent position is clearly duplicative and serves little purpose in addition to these other entities, particularly to those familiar with education policy.
The Lieutenant Governor's Office is perhaps the office with the perhaps least amount of formal responsibilities and could be eliminated without anyone even noticing except for the need to have an alternate Governor.
Here I would suggest that the Governor appoint a Lt. Governor as a running mate, similar to the federal system. This would also help resolve the issue of the Lt. Governor being at odds with the actual Governor.
Of course, few of these proposals are likely to gain much traction in the Democrat-controlled Legislature because lawmakers see these posts as future stepping stones for their own Legislative careers. Not to mention that they are all filled by Democrats and these positions are seen as a good statewide platform to pursue a political agenda.
California's public employee unions always oppose proposals that eliminate a single union position or serve to downsize government even if it will improve efficiency and accountability.
The reality is that many of these offices need to be either eliminated or consolidated to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and the accountability of California government.
David Kersten is a political observer and commentator on California politics. He also serves as an adjunct professor of public policy at the University of San Francisco.