A. Alan Post, the longtime legislative analyst who watched over the budgets of California governors from Earl Warren to Jerry Brown, has died. He was 96.
Post, who also was a well-regarded artist, died March 26 of natural causes at his home in Sacramento, said his son, David.
During Post’s years in Sacramento he saw the state go from “a veritable outpost of the continental United States to one of the largest and most important political entities in the world,” he told The Times in 1977 as he approached retirement.
The legislative analyst’s office provides lawmakers with nonpartisan counsel on fiscal issues. Most years, Post drew his biggest headlines for his recommendations about the state budget. “Our mission is primarily a cold-blooded one…trying to get down to what the state can afford,” he told the California Journal in 1970.
A Times editorial during his last week in Sacramento said Post had “felt the rage of more than one governor for killing pet projects that did not measure up to his criteria — and the slim, cool, tweedy analyst was the winner in most of the confrontations.”
Former Gov. George Deukmejian, who spent 16 years in the Legislature during Post’s tenure, told The Times on Saturday that Post’s impact “was extraordinary....You always had the feeling that he and his staff were arriving at their positions simply based on the facts and not with any bias.”
August Alan Post was born Sept. 17, 1914, in Alhambra, the second of four children of Edwin Post, a developer, and his wife, Edna, a teacher. They settled in South Pasadena but were forced to move to a farm in Lancaster during the Depression.
“I came from a very conservative Republican background, but I could never quite make up my mind on issues in any black and white sense,” Post told The Times in 1972. “I can see all kinds of grays in things.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Occidental College in 1938 in economics and art after having to leave college for three years to work at a bank in downtown Los Angeles to help support his family. He also earned a degree from what was then called the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.
In 1940 while studying for a doctorate in economics at Princeton University, he met and married Helen Wills, who was a painter and later became a sculptor.
David Post said his father completed his exams for a doctorate but didn’t write his dissertation, instead returning to California to teach economics at Occidental. He served in the Navy from 1943 to ’44.
After briefly working for the State Department and in Utah, Post headed to Sacramento in 1946 as the chief economic and administrative analyst for the Legislature’s joint budget committee.
The Posts built their own home in Sacramento and he dug their swimming pool.
He became acting legislative auditor in 1949, getting the job the following year. The title eventually was changed to legislative analyst.
Post was asked to become the state’s finance director shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected governor in 1966. He declined.
“If you did that you’d be committed to a political party and to a political figure,” he explained in 1972. “The legislative analyst position is the most interesting job from the standpoint of my talents that is available.” Post was once a Republican but changed his voter registration to decline to state.
After retiring in 1977, Post painted, taught and traveled. He went to Iran several times in the late 1970s as a consultant.
The Posts also owned a house in Spain. Helen Post died last year.
“He tried and I think succeeded in separating himself from any of the partisan debate,” Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow at USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development, said Saturday. “That’s what made him so powerful and that he was there for so very long.”
In addition to his son David, a painter and retired attorney in Sacramento, Post is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are pending.