Many debates about government center around whether it should be bigger or smaller. I think government should be smarter. Government should be lean and efficient. Government should accomplish more with less.
Instead of raising taxes, the state government should do everything it can to make better use of each hard-earned taxpayer dollar. I promise that I will scrutinize any proposed tax increase with a magnifying glass and consider alternative options. California is on track for a $31 billion surplus. That's a lot of money, and it is imperative for some of it to be returned to taxpayers while the remainder is allocated wisely.
I will also push for greater transparency so residents can easily find out how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. Credit card companies are legally required to prominently disclose certain key provisions like interest rates on the very first page of a contract instead of burying them deep in legalese. Similarly, pertinent information should be available to residents in an easy-to-understand format.
We should enlist the help of nonprofit organizations like MapLight to trace connections between campaign contributions from specific parties and the awarding of state contracts or other benefits to those same parties. For example, if the oil and gas companies spend millions on behalf of the campaigns of state lawmakers who subsequently vote to kill a carbon-reduction bill, we should be able to visually comprehend how much it cost, on average, to buy their votes.
The public should also know the true cost of infrastructure projects. In 2008, the price tag of a high-speed rail line stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco was projected at $33 billion. Today, that estimated cost has skyrocketed to $100 billion, with additional cost hikes almost guaranteed. A portion of the funding for any major transportation project should be used for an independent analysis of the estimated long term cost so the public is not misled.
It is also important to step up enforcement against fraud. A report found that since the start of the pandemic, California has given $20 billion to criminals in fraudulent unemployment benefits. This is hard-earned taxpayer money, and the state must ramp up efforts to protect it.
Speaking of transparency and accessibility, a tech worker recently made the following argument:
Computer programmers have come up with beautiful collaborative change tracking systems (like git) that let you easily make changes to a huge base of code, track who changed what, submit and resolve conflicting versions of updates, etc.
But when we pass a new bill that replaces or modifies an old law, it is always some 300 page document with pages of "Subsection F Paragraph 3 will be modified to read 'XYZ'"
Why not put the laws into a git repository and make it easy for bills to just modify the existing history to say what you want it to say? And why not have the transparency to see exactly what changes and WHO implemented that change? Want to slip some pork for your district into an unrelated bill? Well, that edit is going to have your name on it.
I am highly interested in exploring these ideas further.