Both parties spend so much time fighting each other over controversial legislation that there's little room left for dicussing uncontroversial, non-partisan, non-ideological fixes for many of the persistent problems in government. Here's a list of five simple solutions that could help fix a lot of problems that Californians face:
1. No "Pay to Play" Contracting
A lot of the wasteful spending at all levels of government occurs because private companies that get government contracts use the profits from those contracts to lobby for more contracts, unnecessary projects, no-bid arrangements, and other policies that are in their interest, but against the pressing public interest in fiscal responsibility. A simple solution is that any business (and its top level management and stakeholders) that wants a government contract should not be allowed to lobby or make any political contributions of any kind for the duration of the contract and some specified amount of time thereafter.
2. No Earmarks
Californians should support this on a state and Federal level. It is earmarking that results in money being taken out of California by the Federal government and redirected to special interest projects in other states, making California by far, the country's largest "donor state." Consider that "If Californians only had to pay their fair share of federal taxes, there would be enough money left over to eliminate the state budget deficit and still cut taxes in California by at least $30 billion per year." At the very least, California should support legislation requiring transparency in the earmarking process- which is currently secretive and allows Congressmen to slip them into legislation without identifying which earmarks are theirs.
3. No Appropriations on Ballot Initiatives
Ballot initiatives should not include appropriations. In other words, policies that spend taxpayer money should not come up for a popular vote on ballot initiatives. This system is partially responsible for California's fiscal problems because voters love to vote themselves new programs, but not the tax increases to pay for those programs. It's like giving a credit card to a teenager. If this proposition is too radical, at the very least, Californians can agree to raise the vote requirement from 50% to 60% for any appropriations on the ballot.
4. End Corporate Welfare
The state should not give one single cent of taxpayer money to businesses. While there are legitimate philosophical differences over welfare programs as a social safety net, who could disagree that governments should not tax working class Americans to give to corporate special interests? This encourages lobbying, not hard work, innovation, competitive pricing, and good quality. Ending corporate welfare could help close the deficit while lessening the amount of capital malinvestment that occurs.
5. Privatize Marriage
California is bitterly divided over the marriage issue, but there is a solution that both "sides" can agree to. Instead of rankling over whether or not to legalize gay marriage, the state can get out of the marriage issue altogether by "de-legalizing" straight marriage. As a private, religious institution, the definition of marriage should be left up to private individuals and organizations, not defined and licensed by the state. "Liberals" will like this solution because it ends the government's long-standing discrimination against their conception of marriage. "Conservatives" will like this because it deregulates another aspect of our lives and diminishes the scope and influence of government.