Tom Campbell: Whaddya Mean I’m No Change?


campbellprofessorAfter publication of our piece, “Gov’s Race Lacks a Change Candidate,” here and in the L.A. Times, we heard from several of the candidates for governor who, um, mildly disagreed with our trenchant analysis. The Calbuzz Department of Fair and Balanced Journalism & Customer Service Outsourcing passed their comments on to the newsroom, which today presents a response from Republican wannabe governor Tom Campbell.

Dear Calbuzz,

While I unquestionably agree (of course) with the nice things you say about my specificity in trying to deal with the state’s problems, I think most of your readers would disagree with you that my approach “boil[s] down to more efficient management of the status quo.”

In 2005, as California’s Finance Director, I authored the most sweeping ballot reform of California’s broken budget system in at least the last quarter century. The idea – which I am still proposing in this campaign – is modeled after Gramm Rudman at the federal level.

My proposal is that when state revenues grow faster than what it necessary to cover the previous year’s spending, adjusted for inflation and population, the extra goes into a reserve, which can only be used when revenues fall as they are now. During an impasse, the previous budget continues automatically. If revenues aren’t sufficient, then all items would be cut, in equal percentages, across-the-board.

Unfortunately, in 2005, this revolutionary idea (Prop 76) was defeated.  If it had been adopted, California would have avoided the budget crisis of the last two years – we’d actually be in balance, because our spending would never have shot up like a rocket when the years were good; and when the years turned bad, we would have had a reserve on which to draw.

More recently, in order to save the state billions, I also proposed a sweeping, innovative overhaul of our state’s health insurance system based on free market principles, which can be read in detail at www.campbell.org.

darwinThese are the types of solutions I am offering – innovative, market-oriented overhauls of the way our state does business.  When you look at the mess we’re in, it’s hard to imagine proposing anything else.

Best Wishes,

Editors note: There were no injuries.

subscribe to comments RSS

There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar david says:

    The problem with Prop 76 and Campbell’s expenditure cap proposals is their underlying premise that there will never be a need for any government programs other than the ones that exist right now. That may well be true; it’s possible that government today is doing everything that the people may ever want it to do. But it’s also possible that it’s not true, and that there may be occasions in the future when the people really want the government to do more than it’s doing right now. “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” And if that did happen, it would be very bad for a hard budget cap to be in place, because it would complicate and delay the public’s response to that future problem. A better choice is to repeal the 2/3 rules, elect legislators who really represent the views of their constituents, and then hold them accountable, in successive elections, for the decisions they make about taxes and budgeting. That’s the real fix for our problems.

    • avatar tonyseton says:

      I believe that the Campbell plan is not as limited as is suggested here. New programs could be instituted, but only if their costs were offset by either cutting other programs or finding additional revenues.
      Yes, we need to elect better people to manage our government…like Campbell.

    • avatar SezMe says:

      But the fact that new programs would require reductions elsewhere was exactly david’s point. Those reductions would require political efforts that might take years, if they happened at all.

  2. avatar Grommitt says:

    Too bad Tom is wrapped in the colors of the nihilists who know only how to throw spastic tantrums — after eight years of transferring our national treasury into the pockets of war profiteers. Sorry, Tom, much as I admire your credentials and platform, I never again will vote for an “R”.

  3. avatar jskdn says:

    An initiative can be overridden by another initiative. If there is something new that the people of the state want the government to do and don’t wish to fund it by reducing the money from existing programs, then they could specify that new, larger government program in an initiative, and hopefully provide a funding mechanism. That would create a new base for calculating expenditure limits. It also seems like making the growth of government a conscious choice of the voters is a more honest way to go about it.

    I think a bigger problem is Prop 98, which take a cut of all revenue like the mafia does, only much more. And something else to consider is how the previous spending limitation law, the Gann limit, was destroyed by Prop 111- “The Traffic Congestion Relief And Spending Limitation Act Of 1990.” Gee, what voter would have thought that something with “spending limitation” in the title would do the opposite? I guess the Attorney General of the time, John Van de Kamp, shared our current AG’s predisposition to making the titles of initiatives (summaries too) such that truth becomes secondary to the promotion of their chosen political agendas.

  4. avatar SezMe says:

    My problem, Tom, with your proposal to cap expenditures at population and inflation is that it removes judgment calls from the expenditure process. We elect politicians like you to make smart budget decisions such as whether the level of taxes and expenditures should rise or fall. Future economic, environmental and political considerations should factor into such a decision. Co-opting such decisions with a simplistic formula is not the way to reach smart financial decisions.

Please, feel free to post your own comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.