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Connell for State Controller

October 19, 1994

The state controller is California's chief fiscal officer, signing the state government's checks, auditing the budget and helping oversee state pension funds. In this year's general election the two major-party candidates for the office are Democrat Kathleen Connell and Republican Tom McClintock.

The Times endorses Connell on the basis of her hands-on experience as a financial officer in the private sector and as a teacher on investment at UCLA and UC Berkeley. Connell's ideas for saving the state money through increased efficiency are also more doable than the provocative proposals that McClintock puts forth.

Connell won the Democratic primary by spending roughly $1.3 million of her own money. She became wealthy as an investment banker with her own firm and, before that, as a vice president of Chemical Bank in New York, where she advised cities and states on bond issues.

She proposes to help California deal with its fiscal woes by using some of the same tools of fiscal discipline that a private company would use if facing a budget shortfall of $5 billion to $6 billion such as that now looming for Sacramento. She promises that as state controller (salary $90,000) she would conduct an immediate performance audit to identify ways of reducing the deficit and launch an ongoing program of audits to continue searching out waste or fraud. In addition, she would implement performance-based budgeting for the state in a noble effort to hold departments and programs accountable under previously agreed-on standards of performance.

McClintock, too, has ideas for saving money in Sacramento, but they tend to be politically unfeasible--and generally reflective of the rigidly right-wing reputation he developed during 10 years in the state Assembly. He would, for instance, abolish the office of lieutenant governor and most of the governor's Cabinet. He argues these positions represent a useless layer of bureaucracy between the governor (whose staff budget he would cut 15%) and the state agencies that actually deliver services. While thought-provoking, such ideas are far out, not to mention far off. For now California government needs to focus all of its creative energies and financial resources on just getting the bills paid. McClintock is an impractical choice for such a key office.

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