Gov. George Deukmejian sent a clear carrot-and-stick signal to California legislators Tuesday that he will be "more kindly" disposed to the bills of lawmakers who vote to confirm Rep. Daniel E. Lungren as state treasurer.
It was an unusual public declaration for Deukmejian, who in the past has insisted that his decisions concerning whether to sign or veto bills are based strictly on the merits of the legislation. At the same time, legislators long have privately complained that Deukmejian is not a deal maker or a reciprocator of favors.
But the Republican governor now is engaged in an intense confirmation battle, the final result of which is certain to be considered a telling measurement of his second-term influence with the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Deukmejian also said his "intention" would be to ask Lungren to take the oath of office even if he is rejected by one legislative house but confirmed by the other. He noted that the final decision, however, would be up to Lungren himself.
Deukmejian's interpretation of the state constitutional provision spelling out the confirmation process is that his nominee only needs to be approved by one house. However, both Democratic Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and the Legislature's chief lawyer have issued legal opinions asserting that both houses must confirm the governor's appointee. The state Supreme Court ultimately might have to resolve the dispute.
Deukmejian held a press conference with California reporters following the windup of the three-day National Governors Conference. With votes on Lungren's confirmation slated for Thursday in both the Senate and the Assembly, this politically sensitive legislative struggle has occupied the governor's mind while he has been in Washington. And it dominated the news conference.
Deukmejian was asked whether he would look more favorably upon a Democrat's bill if the lawmaker had voted for Lungren. After first replying, with a grin, that he always looks favorably upon legislators' bills, the governor who has chalked up a record number of vetoes added, "Obviously, if you're not upset with someone, you might tend to look a little more kindly on such a request (to sign a bill)."
The governor disclosed that he had talked by telephone with "a number of legislators" on Tuesday, and he was asked whether this message had been conveyed directly to them.
"I think they know me well enough by now. I don't think I have to say that," he answered. "That's the way in which I've responded (to bills) in the past. Most legislators know that."
The governor was asked if he would be "upset" with a legislator who voted against Lungren.
"Well, as I indicated," he answered, "I'm certainly going to feel much more kindly toward those who recognize that the responsibility for filling a vacant constitutional office is given to the governor, to make that nomination, and the responsibility of the Legislature is to review it carefully. . . . If they find no blemishes on his record in terms of professional performance, in terms of his personal character, then they should vote to confirm.
"So I would hope there will be a majority of legislators who will make the decision on that basis and will not make the decision based on what they might consider to be some political consideration."
Deukmejian replied "No, no, no" when asked if any legislators had asked him to favorably consider a bill in exchange for a vote to confirm Lungren.
But a top Deukmejian adviser, speaking on condition that he not be identified, echoed the governor's message:
"The governor would be extremely appreciative of any Democratic votes. And there's a flip side to that: If a governor is appreciative of votes he gets, he's going to be unappreciative of votes he doesn't get."
Regarding the final outcome, Deukmejian said: "I believe we're going to make it, but it's going to be very close. . . . It's going to be a very vigorous effort and it will be a struggle."
On another subject, Deukmejian indicated that he is not going to fight for restoration of California-based defense programs cut from President Reagan's new budget proposal because such spending decisions should be made in Washington. He also said California should do its "fair share" in helping to reduce the federal budget deficit.