Gov. Pete Wilson on Saturday castigated the Legislature’s Democratic leaders for opposing his budget-balancing plan without offering an alternative of their own, and renewed his call for an initiative that would cut welfare benefits.
Speaking before the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., named after the author of California’s Proposition 13, the governor also said he would support the 1978 tax-cutting initiative in its challenge before the U. S. Supreme Court. He pledged a swift legislative replacement if the initiative is struck down.
Pessimistically warning of “drift and chaos” in the state, Wilson spent most of his hour at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles railing against the state’s entitlement programs--including education and Medi-Cal, but especially Aid to Families with Dependent Children and other welfare programs.
He said welfare has created a “culture of dependency” that has put the state’s budget on “autopilot” and pointed it toward a cliff of financial ruin.
As evidence of this, he pointed to the downgrading of California’s bond rating by New York investment analysts on Friday. He also cited a Legislative Analyst warning that the costs of entitlement program may exceed the entire state budget by the end of this decade if current trends continue.
Wilson chastised Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), who he said have “no stomach” for welfare reforms but also have no ideas for dealing with budget deficits projected to range between $5 billion and $7 billion over the next two years.
“Why is it that we don’t hear a single proposal for savings from the Speaker or the pro tem?” Wilson asked the supportive crowd of tax-cut activists, who had quickly endorsed his proposal when he advanced it last Monday. “I have proposed some (budget-balancing ideas). It’s not fun, but it’s necessary. . . .
“Their reaction to this plan leads me to believe that their only answer to the problem is the Democrat mantra of tax increase.”
Wilson, who earlier this year signed the largest package of tax increases in state history, is rejecting further tax hikes. He said he opposes plans to eliminate state income tax deductions for home mortgage interest and to end income tax indexing, which prevents cost-of-living increases from pushing taxpayers into higher tax brackets.
“What is needed is courage to impose long-term spending controls,” not revenue increases, the governor said.
Welfare payments make up 32% of the state budget, second only to the 45% spent on primary and secondary education, he said. But education cannot be cut because it is an investment in the future and because the number of California students grows by 250,000 a year.
Instead, he promoted his initiative, aimed at next November’s statewide ballot, calling for cutting welfare benefits 10% immediately--another 15% after six months for families with an able-bodied adult--while increasing the amount recipients can legally earn.
The initiative also would give the governor the authority, in effect, to write his own budget if the Legislature cannot pass one on time or if state revenues fall more than 3% below those assumed in any budget the Legislature does pass.
“You will hear it said this (initiative) gives the governor sweeping new powers,” Wilson said. “The sweeping power it gives him is to avoid drift and chaos and force the Legislature to do the job it’s supposed to do in the first place.”