Repairing California's dysfunctional government is no easy task and cannot be accomplished through any single ballot measure. However, there can be significant improvements with a few major changes in the way the state operates.

That is the goal of California Forward, a leading state think tank, which is proposing a ballot measure to address some of the state's governance shortcomings.

Among the reforms sought by California Forward is a two-year budget. This idea has been talked about for many years but has yet to be implemented. A two-year budget would force the Legislature and governor to plan ahead and avoid at least some of the budgeting gimmicks and delays that postpone needed fiscal policies.

The ballot measure also would curb last-minute amendments to bills by requiring all changes be made available to the public at least three days before final passage. Such transparency is badly needed in a legislative body that too often makes major changes to bills without proper analysis or scrutiny.

Among the ballot measure's key elements is a requirement for "performance-based budgeting." This would require state departments to provide the Legislature with goals, performance measures, target outcomes and a funding source for any new program or tax cut that is expected to exceed $25 million.

The California Forward initiative also places a heavy emphasis on collaboration among counties, cities, schools and special districts. They would be eligible for financial incentives such as more sales tax money and relief from certain state regulations.


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Some of the reforms sought by California Forward have been proposed before, and some have been passed by the Legislature only to be vetoed by the governor.

Performance-based budgeting is one example of a successful bill that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed.

California Forward's ballot initiative is not a panacea for state government. But it offers an important positive step forward in making the budgeting process more realistic and more open to the public.

It is bipartisan in nature and does not favor any particular spending or tax policy. What it is designed to do is reform a governmental process that has not been working for many years. With its relatively high tax base and diverse economy, California has the means to do a better job of governance and to provide high-quality services, including education, transportation and public safety.

Unfortunately, the state has been lacking in all of those areas in large part because of a government that needs to do a better job in fiscal planning and efficient operations.

We believe that California Forward has put together a set of reforms that deserve serious consideration by all Californians, especially those in elected office at all levels of government.