City of Pasadena Mayor, Bill Bogaard, spoke at Pacifica Institute, Los Angeles on “Recapturing the California Dream – Reforming California’s Failed Governance.”

Mayor Bill Bogaard started his luncheon address by noting that the California fiscal situation is in shambles and the achievement of a solution was further complicated by the fact that the California state government structure was not built to adequately deal with the current crisis. In fact, he said the government structure has further eroded the fiscal health of the state. Therefore if we are to reform the fiscal situation of the state government we have to reform the government.

Mayor Bogaard first laid out the problems the state is currently facing. The Californian economy he noted underperforms, given its natural resources. The state has a 12% unemployment rate and the emigration rate has been increasing. The government has a low credit rating. The current economic cycle of boom and bust and the current budgetary cycle of feast and famine has threatened everything from parks to healthcare in the state.

The mayor then went on to discuss the causes of the current crisis. He said that the state’s fiscal health was eroding and its budget was depleting because of the passage of propositions such as prop 13, which decrease tax revenue for the state. Government revenue sources such as the vehicle registration fees have also gone down annually. The collapse of the dotcom boom and the current global economic downturn have all resulted in a disastrous combination.

Mayor Bogaard went on to say that the legislature in its current state was being hampered from acting to end the crisis. The requirement of a 2/3rd majority to pass any tax increase has made it harder for tax increases to pass. The term limits enforced on the legislative members have resulted in inexperienced legislators. When it comes to the blame for the current crisis there is plenty to go around, the mayor noted. The partisan inability to compromise, the approval of propositions that eliminate taxes and increase social government spending and the use of one-time revenue to fund on-going projects are all to blame for the current crisis.

To reform the current stalemate there are three options, the first of which is a constitutional convention. This first option although time consuming would be helpful because it would force lawmakers to revise the state constitution in a holistic way. The second way to remedy the current situation would be to go through an initiative process and the third option would be to go through the legislature. The reforms that the mayor suggested included the use of a 2-year budget cycle instead of a one year cycle.

The California dream has been hard to reach because of the high impact recession, the distorted tax structure, the rapid rise in population and the rising cost of social services provided by the government. In order to make the California dream a reality once again we will have to change the tax structure and in order to change the tax structure we have to reform the government structure. The good news is that right now there is heightened awareness of the stalemate in Sacramento and the lawmakers are being pressured to do something about this.