Charged with solving the state's reported budget deficit of $41 billion, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing spending by reorganizing, consolidating and eliminating certain areas of state government in order to increase efficiency and ultimately balance the budget. Included in the Governor's Reorganization Plan (GRP), released in January, is the elimination of the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB).
"It's a knee-jerk reaction to a growing feeling of being fed up with California's political environment in general," says Evan Edgar, regulatory affairs engineer for the California Refuse Recycling Council (CRRC) and one of the board's major stakeholders. Edgar claims the boards' biggest critics don't fully understand how the board operates and the integral part it has played in environmental initiatives like recycling and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Since it was created in 1989, the CIWMB has increased the statewide recycling rate to 58 percent; regulated tire, used oil and electronics recycling; handed out more than $100 million to recycling enterprises; and distributed more than $41 million in grants for education and market development.
Under the governor's proposal, the board would be eliminated, and non-recycling aspects of the board would be transferred to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which would be renamed the Department of Toxics and Waste Management. The recycling aspects of the board would be moved to the Division of Recycling at the Department of Conservation, which is within the state's Natural Resource Agency. These moves would save the state approximately $3 million each year, according to the proposal.
In January, the proposal was submitted to the state's Little Hoover Commission, which has up to 60 days to issue a recommendation to the state legislature. Thirty days after its submission to the Little Hoover Commission, the plan also is submitted to the state's Senate and Assembly. Those bodies must either allow it to pass or initiate a resolution to reject it.
Eliminating the board and reorganizing its responsibilities into department settings, Edgar argues, would translate to very little transparency and no room for stakeholders or lobbyists in the permitting and regulatory processes because the new structure would not be subject to the state's open meeting laws.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the board, says John Meyers, director of communications for CIWMB, is how it is funded. The board is entirely self-funded. Instead of drawing from the state's general fund, the board's $2 million annual budget comes from the state's tipping fees, which average roughly $40 per ton, and fees for used oil, e-waste and used tire recycling.
CIWMB has six board members and a staff of 450 employees. The governor appoints four of the board members, and the state's Senate and Assembly appoint the other two. Critics of the CIWMB say the board positions are just plum appointees and point to the board members' salaries, roughly $132,000, for what they see as a part-time responsibility. Edgar points out that CIWMB board members receive the same salaries as board members for the California Energy Commission and the State Water and Resources Control Board.
"It's easy to pick on the board for patronage issues," says George Eowan, owner of Sacramento, Calif.-based Integrated Recycle. "At the end of the day, it's been a very successful board. Look at the overall record of the board. That's not accomplished by not doing anything."
"The [CIWMB] board is full-time," Edgar says. "Allegations that it's a part-time job are wrong. The board operates three committees, continuously meets with stakeholders for input and enforces regulations on jurisdictions."
There was a similar attempt to eliminate CIWMB in 2005. Recommendations from the California Performance Review called for eliminating 12,000 state jobs and hundreds of appointed positions in an effort to save the state an estimated $32 billion over five years.
The attempt failed, Edgar says, because of legislative resistance and opposition from vested stakeholders and the state's employee union.