Governor Boasts of Record, Admits Losses

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian on Monday insisted his overall record remains solid despite serious setbacks over the last two months in his plans for improving the state's overloaded highway system and for finding a nominee to replace the late Jesse M. Unruh as state treasurer.

"One or two months out of 66 months isn't too bad of a batting average," Deukmejian said during a break in a conference of the Western Governors Assn. "I will certainly acknowledge we've had some disappointments in the last 30 to 60 days but overall . . . I'm personally very pleased. I don't see a lot of people getting up and leaving California."

Despite his optimism, the Republican governor faces the twin dilemmas of finding $1 billion or more to finance transportation projects and selecting a nominee for treasurer who can win confirmation from the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Ballot Issue Defeated

Last week, Proposition 74, Deukmejian's $1-billion bond measure for transportation, officially lost by a tiny margin of 355 votes out of more than 5.2 million ballots cast.

In June, the state Supreme Court upheld the state Senate's rejection of Deukmejian's handpicked nominee for treasurer, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren. And the governor, faced with mounting political opposition, withdrew his plan to make up for a $2-billion budget shortage by raising taxes.

Deukmejian, appearing relaxed and confident at the meeting with his fellow governors from Western states, talked publicly for the first time about Lungren's rejection and the defeat of Proposition 74.

He said he will move quickly to name a new candidate for treasurer--perhaps within the next two weeks.

But at the same time, the governor said he is uncertain how he will go about finding money to pay for the transportation projects he believes are needed to relieve traffic congestion.

"I don't honestly know," he said.

One factor complicating the search for a new state treasurer is that many of the Republican legislators who could most easily win confirmation are also up for reelection this year--raising the possibility that the Democrats might capture the seat a GOP lawmaker would have to vacate to take the treasurer's job.

"If any one of them were to be appointed and confirmed then it presents a very high risk that their seat could be taken over by the Democratic candidate," Deukmejian said.

Deukmejian would not discuss specific candidates for the job, saying only that he was looking at everyone who had been recommended or expressed an interest in the post.

"I would really like to get the person nominated as quickly as possible," the governor said. "I'm looking primarily at an individual who is well-qualified, who would be able to get reelected and who could get confirmed."

Perplexing Problem

The governor was more perplexed with the transportation problem, which could become a serious political issue if he decides to run in 1990 for a third term.

Deukmejian steadfastly opposes an increase in the gasoline tax. In order to raise funds, he may have little other choice than to put another bond measure on the ballot in 1990.

"We were counting on the bond issue," he said. "Now that that is defeated we've got to look at a variety of options to see what we can do."

Seeking to put the best face on his recent misfortunes, the governor said his success rate would be great--if he were an athlete.

"I think if most highly paid baseball players . . . can successfully hit once out of three times then that's considered to be a rather extraordinary record," he said.

Furthermore, he said, the rejection of Lungren is not a setback that is going to affect many members of the general public.

"While that's a major disappointment for me, it's not something that has an adverse impact, for example, on the entire state or the quality of life in California," he said. "So I think you have to look at it in its proper context."

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