Governor Hones His Blue Pencil for New Budget
Gov. George Deukmejian left no doubt Tuesday that he intends to whack away at the Legislature’s version of the 1985-86 state budget soon to be delivered to his desk if it contains “too much spending or an insufficient reserve.” But he also used a Capitol press conference to try to defuse in advance any criticism that cuts he makes might be unwarranted.
Deukmejian said he hopes reports of any blue-penciling he might do to the spending plan now being crafted by lawmakers will reflect the fact that “I have already proposed a funding increase for nearly every essential service provided by state government.”
In an opening statement to reporters, the governor cited increases he has proposed in spending for such programs as community colleges, mental health and transportation, but he said there are “legislators and others who are calling for some additional spending.”
He said, however, that anything he perceives as a threat to “maintaining a balanced budget, having a prudent reserve for emergencies and doing it without a tax increase” will be vetoed.
In his first year in office, and with the state in precarious financial condition, Deukmejian sliced $937 million out of the document sent to him by the Legislature. Although an economic upturn subsequently filled the state treasury with a surplus, he vetoed $371 million from the current year’s budget to assure a $950-million reserve.
A two-house legislative conference committee currently is working out a compromise between Assembly and Senate versions of the 1985-86 budget, both of which exceed Deukmejian’s original $33.7-billion proposal by up to $900 million. The committee is to complete its work by this weekend, setting up floor votes in the two houses sometime next week.
The state Constitution requires that the budget be sent to the governor by June 15, a deadline that is only occasionally met, and be signed into law by July 1, start of the new fiscal year.
Reagan’s Tax Plan
On another subject Tuesday, the governor said he is not yet prepared to take a position on President Reagan’s income tax reform proposal, which includes elimination of the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes.
He said that the potential effect on California has yet to be determined and that he has asked the state Department of Finance for a detailed analysis.
A Democratic leader in the Legislature, Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), challenged Deukmejian earlier this week to show his independence from Reagan by “coming out swinging” on behalf of California taxpayers.
“If I concluded at the end of our analysis . . . that there were some features of the proposal that were unfair . . . (or) if the result was that it appeared as though under the guise of reform that we were going to wind up with most Californians paying more in taxes, I certainly would speak out,” Deukmejian said.
The governor also defended his Administration’s enforcement of safety standards in the workplace, saying that, despite criticism and a federal investigation into the state’s handling of complaints, “for the most part, our record is very good.”
Deukmejian said during a Capitol news conference that budget cuts and vacancies in the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration have not impaired the state’s ability to protect workers.
“Certainly our intent and our commitment is that we want to make sure our workplaces are safe,” Deukmejian said.
Officials of the U.S. Labor Department have confirmed that they have been examining an estimated 140 California cases as the result of allegations that Cal-OSHA failed to protect “whistle-blowers” who speak out about health and safety violations on the job.
In at least 22 of those cases, the state reportedly upheld workers claims that they were harassed or unjustly fired but either delayed or took no action to protect the employees.
Deukmejian said that if the investigation turns up evidence that his Administration has mishandled the cases, he will take immediate action.
“If it is true that our state agency has not been fully protective of individuals who make complaints, we will correct the procedures that are being followed . . . ,” Deukmejian said.