Monday, January 17, 2011

Board reform didn’t pan out for Schwarzenegger

Board reform didn’t pan out for Schwarzenegger
He appointed people to the very state panels that he had sought to eliminate
By Matthew T. Hall
January 15, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger stormed into the governor’s office in late 2003 intending to “blow up the boxes” of state government and soon targeted 88 boards and commissions for termination.

He left this month, having eliminated only a few, and one of his last acts involved naming a series of political allies to commission seats with six-figure salaries, including several boards that he wanted abolished.

“Clearly, it was against what he said at the beginning,” said Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and an ally in Schwarzenegger’s reform efforts. “I’m disappointed he didn’t follow through and set the example at the end.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear blamed the Legislature for blocking reforms. He said the call to eliminate certain boards was meant to streamline government, not save money, because much of the funding originates outside the state’s discretionary general fund.

He said all of Schwarzenegger’s appointments put “inherently qualified” people on boards that remain relevant.

“They serve a purpose so we have to keep them functioning as long as they exist,” he said.

California’s governor appoints 63 people to 12 boards and commissions that pay from $111,845 to $132,179 a year, according to a review by The Watchdog. They are collectively paid almost $8 million a year.

By month’s end, the list will have 18 vacancies for newly sworn-in Gov. Jerry Brown to fill. A Brown spokeswoman said the governor is closely considering each choice while looking for ways to cut costs.

In his final week, Schwarzenegger drew criticism by appointing six people to positions with six-figure salaries, three to boards he had tried to eliminate.

Two were to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which pays members $128,000 a year to settle state unemployment insurance disputes. While each member handles hundreds of appeals a month, the board has met 44 times since 2008, or little more than monthly.

Schwarzenegger appointed departing Sens. Dennis Hollingsworth of San Diego and Ray Ashburn of Bakersfield to the unemployment board, and Vicki Marti of Fairfax to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.

He also named Kari Miner, a Sacramento interior decorator and the wife of former Schwarzenegger aide Paul Miner, to the Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees collective bargaining for state public employee unions.

Paul Miner was the point person for Schwarzenegger’s proposal to eliminate hundreds of appointed positions and more broadly reorganize state government.

“No one paid by the state should make $100,000 a year for only meeting twice a month,” Schwarzenegger said in his 2005 State of the State address.

Schwarzenegger’s California Performance Review Commission, which included Fox, proposed scrapping 117 of the state’s 339 boards and commissions.

The governor’s follow-up effort was roundly criticized and abandoned within a month. Later, the state did eliminate a waste board and consolidated boards dealing with geologists and hearing aids...

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