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A Little Something for Everyone : Democrats Preempted on Most Rallying Points

January 11, 1985|WILLIAM ENDICOTT | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO — For the second year in a row, an abundance of riches enabled California's frugal Republican governor, George Deukmejian, to outline a state spending plan that at once upstaged the Democratic-controlled Legislature and enabled him to offer a little something for almost everyone.

The governor Thursday preempted most of the Democrats' symbolic rallying points by proposing spending hikes virtually across the board that in many cases are much higher than the rate of inflation. Even social programs, which two years ago were a Deukmejian target, are due f1869750369 But this is not to say that the leopard has totally changed his spots.

Deukmejian described his plan, the third budget he has proposed since taking office, as a "blueprint for sound management," and, indeed, there are elements of vintage Deukmejian in it--a reduction in the state work force and cuts in such disfavored Deukmejian agencies as the state Coastal Commission and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

It also contains no dramatic new initiatives, other than creation of a new department to fight toxic waste, and only $75 million to cover any new spending programs that the Legislature might want to enact.

But it is a far cry from Deukmejian's first budget, which he unveiled only a few days after taking office in 1983 as the successor to Democrat Edmund G. Brown Jr. Faced with a $1.5-billion deficit, he proposed deep spending cuts and declared: "These are tough times, and so we've got to make tough decisions."

The result was a prolonged and bitterly partisan struggle with the Legislature that saw the state move well into a new fiscal year before differences between the two sides could be resolved. Bills went unpaid, and checks for the unemployed were held up.

Thanks to an economic upturn that filled the state treasury to overflowing, there was very little to fight over last year--except the size of a reserve fund. And there is every indication that the process will go as smoothly, or maybe even more so, this year.

All Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) could find to criticize Thursday was the $75 million set aside for legislative initiatives.

"It is disappointing and not particularly conducive to improved relations to find the Administration proposing to spend nearly every penny on their own priorities and providing next to nothing for the Legislature's consideration," he said.

Otherwise, he pronounced the 1,347-page document "generally acceptable" and "essentially adequate."

Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and one of Deukmejian's most vocal critics, took a preliminary look and said: "On quick review, I don't see anything particularly alarming."

Vasconcellos said the governor "appears to have responded to the needs of our educational system and the needs of our aged, blind and disabled citizens. . . . I'm optimistic. We may be able to do more than just talk about cooperation this year."

The sharpest criticism came from outside the Legislature, but from a group that is rarely able to elicit much public sympathy--state employees.

"The cutbacks (in state employment) he's proposing are frankly brutal," said Leo E. Mayer, president of the California State Employes Assn., who went on to attack as especially "unconscionable" a "24% cut" in the Employment Development Department.

Embarrassingly, Mayer's office had to issue a correction a few hours later. "The correct figure is a 12% cut," a spokesman said.

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