Meg Whitman’s bargain

Want to run the state like a business? Here’s how.

Rich Williams is a Davis resident and 20-year Caltrans engineer

Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wants to run California like a business. You might think that’s absurd, that government is meant to serve the people, not turn a profit. But who is more qualified than the former eBay CEO to cut costs, motivate employees and increase revenues?

No self-respecting CEO runs a business with the distant future in mind. Current fiscal-year profits are much more important. Whitman’s term will only be four to eight years, so she will act quickly to cut costs. For example: Under Whitman, the Department of Pesticide Regulation will be completely eliminated. It will be years before people develop cancer from that new pesticide. The Department of Financial Institutions will be on the chopping block, too, since the vast majority of financial institutions are trustworthy.

Another obvious target is education. After all, today’s kindergartners won’t be viable workers until many years after Whitman leaves office. And think how much money we will save by not having to comply with that pesky Freedom of Information Act. Nobody would expect a world-class business to hold public meetings and circulate public documents to help make business decisions.

The final cost-cutting move will be the installation of signs at the borders that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” This ingenious strategy will save billions every year. “Sorry, no health care for you. Didn’t you read the sign?”

After seven years of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s labor-relations tactics, state employees are in desperate need of motivation. Whitman’s plan to lay off 40,000 state employees might sound heartless, but like any upper-echelon business, California will cushion the blow with six months of severance pay. And running California like a business will have several benefits for the remaining state employees. Salaries for some classifications, such as engineers, doctors, dentists and lawyers, will increase to keep pace with the private sector. Signing bonuses, year-end bonuses and stock options will become commonplace, as will office parties—with alcohol. No more flying coach—only business class and private jets for our valued employees.

There will be timeshares and condos scattered throughout the world for the use of state employees. Limos will replace taxis, rental cars and that fleet of Chevy Cavaliers in the state garage. State buildings will be modern works of art, inspiring employees to think-outside-the-box and be entrepreneurial. Employees in the Sacramento area will compete for the chance to watch a Kings game from the state of California skybox at Arco Arena—check that—the State of California Arena.

There are many ways to increase revenues without raising taxes. Partnerships are one option. We will soon wonder why we didn’t sell the naming rights to state parks, the state Capitol and the Bay Bridge years ago. Want to visit the Geico State Fair? Just take the Procter & Gamble Freeway north to the Interstate Google, then exit at the Starbucks offramp.

Perhaps the boldest move of all will be the state’s hostile takeover of Nevada. Nothing says “free enterprise” like gambling and prostitution.

If money runs short, we can always go public, conduct an initial public offering and sell shares of California. Who wouldn’t want to own a piece of the Golden State? Sure, the state has no net income and might never pay a dividend. But there are many public companies in the same situation, and people still buy their shares. An IPO would generate enough revenue to run the state for several years, probably for the length of Whitman’s term.

Clearly, running California like a government has not been working very well lately. So give Whitman a chance. And if this idea of running California like a business doesn’t work out, we can always declare bankruptcy and run to Canada.