HEADLINES : California

Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes California's Performance-Based Budget Reform

by Cory Eucalitto | October 10, 2011

California Governor Jerry Brown wielded his veto pen on a unanimously passed budget reform measure. SB 14vetoed yesterday by the Governor along with a host of other bills, would have implemented a system of performance-based budgeting in the state. 

As defined by the bill, performance-based budgeting is "a system of budgeting that uses information on performance to inform resource allocation decisions, thereby establishing clear accountability." Had the bill been made law, state departments would have been required to submit annual budget requests that contained not only projected expenditures and revenues, but "goals, targeted outcomes and performance data." Spending priorities could then be weighed respectively in terms of their ability to reach desired outcomes. According to the Pew Center on the States, performance-based budgeting is at least partially practiced in 25 states.

Supporters of the measure believed that performance-based budgeting was a catalyst for financial change in the beleaguered state.  The bill's sponsor, State Senator Lois Wolk, argued that it would have given "the Governor, Legislature, state agencies, and most importantly, the public, better information on what is working and where change is needed." The bill unanimously passed both houses of the legislature, with support from a broad coalition of business groups, local governments, and labor unions like the Service Employees International Union.

Governor Brown highlighted his reasons for axing the reforms in a veto message, calling it a "siren song of budget reform" that inappropriately inflicts a "one size fits all" approach. According to Brown, the costs of each department developing appropriate goals and performance measurements greatly outweigh the potential benefits. According to Brown, while the approach may work in some instances, in others it would be an expensive waste of time. 

Brown closed out his veto message with the promise of a forthcoming Executive Order that will contain a "practical, tailored approach" to make an "actual difference" in the way the state budgets.






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