Gov. George Deukmejian, his advice having been rejected by the voters, cautioned somewhat bitterly Wednesday that passage of the school funding and Cal/OSHA ballot measures will mean less money for “literally thousands” of other programs such as health care and law enforcement.
Referring specifically to Proposition 97, which restored the Cal/OSHA worker safety inspection program he abolished on grounds that it copied federal efforts, the governor declared: “When people come to me and ask for funds for any number of a multitude of other programs, I’m going to have to say, ‘Sorry, folks, we don’t have the money for you because we are going to have to carry on with this duplicative program (costing) $9 million that could have been much more wisely used.’ ”
And as for voters’ approval of Proposition 98, the guaranteed school funding measure sponsored by the education establishment and his longtime nemesis, state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig, the governor asserted: “It’s a highly irresponsible proposition. . . . Obviously we’ll do the best we can to implement it in accordance with the law, but it’s going to have a significant effect, it seems to me, on how we’re able to deal with the literally thousands of other requests we get for funding.”
The governor said he could not “really start to spell out what’s in jeopardy,” but he did specifically mention state funding of local trial courts, plus “health care . . . law enforcement, whatever.”
Deukmejian, holding a press conference on the day after an election in which he won some, but seemed to lose more, predicted that special interests “on the receiving end” of Proposition 98 now will be “encouraged” to sponsor additional ballot initiatives to guarantee their own slices of the state budget. Under Proposition 98, public elementary and high schools, plus community colleges, will be guaranteed 39% of the state General Fund.
“And pretty soon,” he said caustically, “maybe we won’t need to have a Legislature and a governor any more and (we can) just do all this by special interest propositions.”
Deukmejian addressed virtually every issue on Tuesday’s state ballot in answering reporters’ questions, but clearly preferred to talk about what he considered his big winner: Vice President George Bush’s narrow victory in California. The governor had campaigned extensively with Bush in the state, and his chief political fund-raiser, Los Angeles attorney Karl Samuelian, raised about $5 million for the vice president.
Remained in Background
But Deukmejian did not raise money or develop a campaign on behalf of the positions he took on several controversial ballot measures, some of which directly affected his governorship.
For example, he opposed all the insurance proposals, but voters narrowly approved the most sweeping measure, consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s Proposition 103. “I don’t think any of us have heard the last of that proposition,” the governor said, forecasting court challenges and insurance company departures from the state.
“It is obvious that the public is not supportive of the insurance industry,” acknowledged Deukmejian, who from 1985 through 1987 received $460,000 in campaign contributions from insurance interests. “Apparently the insurance industry has failed to adequately justify in the minds of the voters of California the necessity for those premiums they have charged.”
Perhaps Deukmejian’s most controversial stand on a ballot proposition was his endorsement of Proposition 102, the measure that would have eliminated anonymous testing for AIDS and required doctors to report to health authorities the names of patients infected with the deadly virus. The proposal lost by 2 to 1.
“I, along with a lot of other people, have been on sort of a learning curve as it relates to this very difficult problem,” Deukmejian said, noting that his Administration is now spending about $100 million a year on AIDS testing and research--a thirtyfold increase since he became governor. “Some are trying to treat this as if the virus has some sort of a civil right. The virus has no civil right. . . .
“There are a certain number of people who are involved with that issue who, No. 1, never seem to be happy or satisfied with anything we do and, No. 2, seem to be more interested in confrontational politics than in trying to truly just work on reducing the spread of it.”
‘Vote Against Smoking’
Deukmejian also was on the losing side of Proposition 99, the tobacco tax increase. He opposed it. The measure passed big. But the governor said he does not consider the voters’ verdict as a message they “want to see general taxes increased. I think that was more a vote against smoking.”
So each of these ballot measures “has to be looked at separately, really,” the governor emphasized in explaining why voters did not heed his advice. And anyway, he added, in most cases he merely was informing people how he personally planned to vote--not attempting to sway people’s opinions.
But on the Cal/OSHA and school funding measures, Deukmejian did author opposition statements in the voters’ official ballot pamphlet. He also appeared in a television commercial opposing Cal/OSHA and periodically campaigned against both measures.
As for his own political future, Deukmejian said he will decide “by the end of the year” whether to run for a third term in 1990. “The decision I make will really be a personal decision . . . one that I and my family make,” he said.
The governor indicated, however, that he believes that the victories of Bush and Republican Sen. Pete Wilson showed that voters might be agreeable to a third term. Those two major contests, he said, “clearly demonstrate that Californians are generally pleased with the conditions in our state.”
Deukmejian said that whatever he does--whether it is remaining in government or working in the private sector--he “would much prefer to do it here in California.” Deukmejian said he has not been approached by anybody in the Bush camp about the possibility of ultimately joining the new Administration and “I’m really not interested in going to Washington at all.”