Two California governance reform groups have combined forces and resurrected a budget accountability initiative using what every successful ballot measure needs: Cash.

With matching $3 million pledges, billionaire Nicolas Berggruen and his California Think Long Committee is joining forces with California Forward, a government reform organization led by former Contra Costa Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak and former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

The Think Long Committee last week announced it would postpone its reform initiative until 2014.

And California Forward has struggled to find the money for a costly statewide signature-gathering effort and election campaign.

The new partnership announced Thursday is backing California Forward's Government Performance and Accountability Act with an eye on securing sufficient signatures in time for the November general election.

The act would require all public agencies -- state, schools, cities, counties, fire districts, sewer districts and more -- to produce budgets that spell out in detail their goals and publish an annual account of whether or not they achieved them.

It would also allow local governments to band together, write a community strategy plan and pool their resources toward a specific project. If approved by the Legislature, the new coalition would qualify for a faster, cheaper streamlined environmental regulatory process.


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Taxpayers of all political stripes want government that works, McPeak told 250 community, business and political leaders gathered in Concord on Thursday for the Contra Costa Business Council's annual conference.

"Is employment up? Is poverty down? Is health care improving? Are children learning?" McPeak said. "Most Californians are not caught up in the traditional left and right debate. They want to move forward."

The reform measure would force government agencies to budget based on results, McPeak said, and disclosure of their successes and failures will make them more accountable to the public. In turn, she added, residents would have more trust in their government.

McPeak, who also served as the former state Business, Transportation and Housing secretary under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, described the budget reform measure as a "reboot."

"California needs a new operating system," she said.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, www.ibabuzz.com/politics or at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.

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Read the full text of the Government Performance and Accountability Act at www.cafwd-action.org/pages/proposed-ballot-measure.