The future of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research appears very much in doubt. On Wednesday, the Legislature's Conference Committee on the Budget recommended eliminating OPR only hours after Gov. Schwarzenegger called OPR "a total waste."

The Los Angeles Times quotes the governor saying, "The Office of Planning and Research ought to be about planning and research to come up with great policy answers, which this office doesn't do."

I'll grant that OPR is not all it could be. But whose fault is that, Mr. Governor?

Starting with Gray Davis and continuing with Schwarzenegger, the OPR director's position has become a political patronage appointment. Both governors passed over highly qualified policy experts in favor of political cronies. A political crony's primary task is covering the boss's ass, not pressing forward with policies that could be politically sensitive.  

The Office of Planning and Research has some smart and very dedicated people on its chronically short staff. Give them the leadership, freedom and resources to develop "great policy answers," and they just might do so.

- Paul Shigley