Questions for the 2010 Gubernatorial Candidates
In addition to the many substantive challenges - jobs, education, water and so on - that face California, the next governor must address a central question: What is wrong with California's government, and how can we fix it?
In that spirit, Governing California presented the candidates for governor with the following ten questions about how the state is - and should be - governed.
1. Some observers believe California's system of government doesn't work because it can't work - they cite things like supermajority vote rules, inflexible initiatives and a convoluted relationship between state and local government. Is the problem systemic? And what would you do as governor to make government work better?
2. How would you ensure that California passes a credible budget - on time? Given supermajority rules on taxing and spending, how can state leaders get consensus on the budget, especially when money's tight?
3. California is the only state requiring a two-thirds vote to both pass a budget and raise taxes. It also has the most persistently unbalanced budgets. Is the supermajority system at the root of the state's fiscal crisis and do you favor Prop. 25? If not, why is California's system superior to that in other states?
4. To restore stability to California's volatile budget, government reformers have various proposals, including shifting taxes away from the rich, creating a bigger rainy day fund and pay-as-you-go budgeting. What approach do you favor?
5. California's initiative process allows voters to pass measures that increase state spending or cut taxes without saying how such changes would be paid for. Should we require initiatives to identify funding to offset their effect on the budget?
6. California's initiative process is the most inflexible in the world. Every other state with an initiative system allows its legislature to make changes to a law enacted by voters. Would you favor reforming the process to give legislators more say?
7. California has the largest legislative districts of any state and the strictest term limits. Do those factors contribute to the legislature's diminished reputation? How can we ensure continuity and effectiveness from our legislature?
8. Should redistricting be the job of a citizen commission? Can putting redistricting back in the hands of partisan legislators be considered good governance?
9. California's constitution, one of the world's longest, can be changed by a simple majority of voters. Should we make it harder to amend the constitution or does it serve us well? Does it need a major overhaul and, if so, how can we pull that off?
10. Three out of four voters - 12.7 million people - didn't vote in this year's primaries and many are likely to stay home on Nov. 2. Does California's electoral system serve its citizens well? How could we structure campaign funding and elections to ensure government more fully and fairly represents all Californians?
Can We Get on Track?
Trust in government has reached record lows, and California is in need of change. But what's the root of the problem? And how can we fix it? In December 2009, we brought together eight smart thinkers for a wide-ranging conversation.
A Century of Reform
This isn't the first time Californians have tried to fix a broken government. This timeline traces a century-worth of reform efforts -- some fizzled, some failed and some yielded major unintended consequences.
About This Project
California's civic institutions once inspired the nation, but the state has plummeted to startling levels of dysfunction. Today, California is often cited as an example of excess, failure and governmental paralysis. Governing California looks at how we got to this point, explores the huge -- and sometimes unseen -- impact on the state's citizens and institutions, and aims to stimulate a public discussion of how we might find our way back to collaborative, well-functioning governance.
On the airwaves of The California Report and through this website, Governing California will make sense of how our political leaders are elected and what constrains -- and enables -- their ability to govern. We'll examine how tax dollars are raised and spent, the role of citizens in government and the effect of money in politics. As Californians we can't fix the problem until we understand what's not working and the nature of the forces keeping it that way. But we also need to voice our visions of how we want our state to function, and start talking to each other about solutions. We invite you to join that conversation.
Governing California is funded by the James Irvine Foundation.