Over the years, The Times has consistently urged government to invest enough in schools, transportation networks and other public services to keep pace with California’s phenomenal growth. Its hope has been for public services that would nurture commerce, industry and people and to protect the unique natural resources that make California the Golden State.
In a recent letter, Gov. George Deukmejian complained that The Times’ editorial policies call for growth in government programs but never describe where government can put its hands on the money necessary to support those programs. He challenged The Times to “put up or shut up.” It is a fair challenge that The Times accepts.
Today’s editorial is the first of a series of three in which The Times will examine the need for new and expanded programs for schools, universities, health care, transportation and all others essential to the state’s future. Consistent with the challenge, the series will specify the programs that California needs to grow and prosper, the cost of the programs and the tax increases it would take to finance them.
THE GOVERNOR’S LETTER
Deukmejian on State Budget
In your editorial “State Budget: Over the Cliff” (Feb. 17), you have once again attributed virtually all of California’s challenges to what you say is a lack of state revenues and to the fact that I won’t consent to a tax increase.
Why didn’t you inform your readers that over the last six years, we have had a 73% increase in state tax revenues--thanks to our strong economy and job creation--and a 65% increase in expenditures? Both increases exceed the combined rate of inflation and population growth during that same period.
Our problem is not a lack of revenues. By keeping taxes reasonable, we have helped keep prosperity and job creation high, and this growth has brought more new, steady revenues into government coffers for public services than any tax increase ever could.
California is not falling off a “cliff” or sinking into an “abyss"--to cite just two examples of the hyperventilated phrase-making that has become a staple of your “Chicken Little"-style editorials. Virtually the whole world knows that when it comes to the quality of life, the level of public services and the opportunities for personal fulfillment, few places on Earth can match California.
That is why people are leaving other states, some of which are high tax states, and beating a path to our door. It is why the job creators and corporate decision makers, both foreign and domestic, have made California their No. 1 favored destination for new investments. And most recently (on Feb. 24), Wall Street has expressed renewed confidence in California’s underlying fiscal health by reissuing our Triple A-bond rating.
Yes, we have challenges and we always strive to be the best. But your endless refrain--more spending, higher taxes--represents a disproved, discredited prescription for mediocrity, and we will never return to that philosophy as long as I’m governor. And I am convinced that, come 1990, the people will reject any candidate who thinks like you do.
I propose that at the end of each editorial calling for increased spending or higher taxes in a given area, you add it to a cumulative total of all new spending and taxes you have proposed in a given year and report those totals to your readers. In this manner, readers could judge the wisdom of your views not just on one isolated issue, but they would be given an opportunity to judge the total impact of your views on their wallets and pocketbooks if the state were to follow your advice.
Finally, if you feel so strongly about providing state government with additional revenues, why wait for the governor and Legislature to raise taxes? The Times Mirror Co. reported that it made $332 million last year, after taxes. We will gladly accept your voluntary higher tax payments. Simply make your checks payable to the “State of California,” and send it to my attention. In other words--"put your money where your mouth (or pen) is.” Or stated another way--"put up or shut up.” I will make sure that your generous contributions are deposited into the state’s general fund and that your money is wisely spent.