SACRAMENTO — In his most ideological budget yet, Republican Gov. George Deukmejian embraced the state's constitutionally required spending limit Thursday by proposing a virtually no-growth $39-billion fiscal plan that calls for slashing or eliminating Democratic-supported health and education programs.
The governor, saying that he was keeping faith with voters who placed a spending ceiling in the state Constitution in 1979, called for cuts in the $5-billion Medi-Cal program, in special school programs for minority, handicapped and gifted children, and in state-mandated county health programs.
The new budget plan presented to the Democrat-led Legislature also would impose a six-month delay on scheduled increases in financial aid to public schools, in state employee pay raises and in income supplements for welfare recipients and those receiving support under a special program for the aged, blind and disabled.
Shift in Obligations
As part of the effort to further streamline spending, Deukmejian will ask the Legislature to shift the responsibility for $477 million in state-required programs from Sacramento to cities and counties throughout the state. The governor also would end state support for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an industrial safety program.
The governor's budget proposal is sure to ignite several fights in the Legislature, where Democrats feel that the political pendulum may start to swing back their way, nationally and in California. Several Democratic leaders were outspokenly critical of Deukmejian's spending plan.
Overall, the fifth budget of Deukmejian's tenure as governor would boost state spending by only 1.8%, the lowest year-to-year increase since he took office in 1983.
In dollar terms, it means that all state departments would have to divide $682 million in new money, an amount less than what educators have been saying public schools alone will need to keep pace with rising costs and pupil enrollments.
At the same time that Deukmejian is proposing cuts in many of the Legislature's most politically sensitive programs, he wants to completely rebuild the state's $1-billion budget reserve, a trade-off certain to encounter stiff legislative opposition.
'Look at All Sacred Cows'
"We are going to have to look at all sacred cows and the most sacred cow is the surplus," asserted Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco). He described the plan to shift state programs back to the local level as "ludicrous" and "awful."
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) said flatly: "I don't agree with this budget. The governor is trying to maintain a $1-billion reserve, but at the same time cut back basic programs such as worker safety, Medi-Cal and education."
Roberti, referring to Deukmejian's proposal to begin reducing school class sizes and pay for it by eliminating what he considers "less essential" education programs, charged that "under the governor's budget there would be smaller classes, but kids would be learning less."
This is the first budget strongly influenced by the spending ceiling put into the California Constitution by voters in 1979. The limit is determined by a formula based on inflation and population growth. Deukmejian's budget would bring state expenditures within $80 million of the limit, but only if the Legislature agrees to Deukmejian's budget-cutting package. If the Legislature balks, the state could go over the limit.
Another check on spending is lower-than-expected tax revenues.
But, even though the spending ceiling and a leveling off of tax revenues helped shape the budget, the fiscal plan clearly reflects Deukmejian's conservative political philosophy.
"It is a balanced budget. It is a responsible budget. It includes a substantial measure of reforms. And it's going to result in helping to save taxpayers many millions of dollars," Deukmejian said, reading a prepared statement into television cameras.
The governor, in listing his priorities, said education programs would still get 55% of the overall budget. Along with the proposed cuts, Deukmejian noted that he put money in the budget for increased spending on highways, foreign trade development, toxic cleanup, prisons and a new "children's initiative."
Deukmejian, who began his second four-year term Monday as the result of a landslide reelection victory last November over Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, said the new fiscal plan "keeps faith with the people when they voted in 1979 to limit the growth of government."
Insists on Reserve
The Republican chief executive said he has been "insisting" on a $1-billion reserve so the state could pay for unforeseen emergencies such as fires or floods, or to provide a cushion for the kind of problems that developed last month when unexpected expenditures and a drop-off in tax revenues created a $900-million budget shortage.