Guidelines for Contributors to California Gubernatorial Candidates

Candidate speeches will be poetic but most governance is prosaic.

Fast on the heels of Tuesday’s election will come announcements of more entrants to the 2018 contest to succeed Governor Jerry Brown. Antonio Villaraigosa jumped in yesterday, joining John Chiang, Delaine Eastin and Gavin Newsom. Before supporting anyone, learn what governors really do and look for clues to how candidates would really govern:

  1. The governor is the state’s Educator-in-Chief. California’s K-12 system is a state-operated enterprise with six million students, 300,000 teachers, and $87 billion in annual spending ($14,500 per student). The governor and legislature write rules governing teacher tenure and dismissal, compensation, charters and how much money is diverted from classrooms to pensions and other retirement costs. Every candidate will say they support public schools but clues are whether the candidate is supported by the public employees who capture 81% of that $87 billion and/or has endorsed anti-education-reform candidates for the legislature.
  2. The governor is the state’s Heathcare-Insurer-in-Chief. Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) serves 13.5 million — 1 of every 3 — Californians under a voucher-type system in which beneficiaries choose among healthcare providers paid by the government. $93 billion will be spent on Medi-Cal this year, $27 billion from the state budget, making it the state’s second largest expenditure. Service is spotty, performance measures are rare, and Medi-Cal spending growth is crowding out UC, CSU and other programs. Watch out for candidates endorsed by the hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, doctors or nurses capturing that $93 billion.
  3. The governor proposes state spending on UC and CSU. Every candidate will say they support UC and CSU but spending on those programs is being crowded out by Medi-Cal, pensions and other retirement costs. The tell is whether the candidate is supported by union or corporate beneficiaries of the spending crowding out UC and CSU.
  4. The governor negotiates compensation with 206,000 employees. State employees will collect $17 billion in salary this year. (Eg, just 55,000 employees in the Corrections department will collect $5 billion in salary, $1.5 billion more than the state allocated to UC this year.) The clue is whether the candidate is supported by the recipients of that spending.
  5. The governor influences elections to the legislature. The legislature is a co-equal branch of government. Some governors blame legislatures for failing to enact gubernatorial agendas but all too often those same governors helped elect some of the legislators blocking action! Pay close attention to who gubernatorial candidates endorse for the legislature. Those endorsements are clues to what they really want to do.

Political philanthropists may not rely on public services or on the in-state economy for their livelihoods but most of their fellow citizens do.

While political philanthropists may not send their own kids to public schools, colleges or universities, use public health services, ride public transportation or rely for their income on California’s in-state economic growth, the vast majority of their fellow Californians do. Governors have an enormous impact on their lives. Political philanthropists should hold gubernatorial candidates to the same standards they employ when hiring critical employees, childcare providers, doctors, lawyers and financial advisors. They need to make informed choices.

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