SACRAMENTO — Describing California as "an unsurpassed national leader in the fight against AIDS," Gov. George Deukmejian on Saturday pointed to $100 million that he has approved or proposed over five years for the fight against the deadly disease.
However, the governor appears headed for a confrontation with the Legislature over whether the state has done enough to slow an epidemic that has already killed 4,200 Californians and is expected to strike an additional 40,000 over the next four years. California accounts for almost 25% of the AIDS cases in the nation.
In his weekly radio address, Deukmejian asserted, as he has in the past, that the state under his Administration has "devoted more resources to this effort than the next 10 states with the largest AIDS caseloads combined."
The governor told listeners that "government has a moral responsibility to help stop the spread of this disease, and to provide those who are sick or infected with compassion, care and hope."
But he stressed the "moral obligation" of those who believe they may carry the AIDS virus, "to be tested and to refrain from any conduct that could spread the virus to others."
This week the Legislature is expected to vote on a budget that includes $80 million for AIDS education, testing, non-hospital patient care and research--double the $40 million the governor has called for.
In the past, Deukmejian has not hesitated to veto money for AIDS programs that the Legislature has added to the Administration's budget proposals. A year ago, for example, the governor sliced $20 million in AIDS funding from the $50 million approved by the Legislature.
Deukmejian has not signaled how he will respond to the version of the 1987-88 budget that was hammered out last week by a joint Assembly-Senate conference committee.
That proposal includes $13.3 million more than Deukmejian has proposed for AIDS education and information programs. The additions would be directed toward stopping the spread of AIDS among groups that already have a high incidence of the disease, including homosexual and bisexual men and intravenous drug abusers, as well as among others at risk, including health professionals, prostitutes and sexually active heterosexuals.
Among the items that the spending plan approved by the conference committee would add to the Deukmejian proposal are: $5.9 million more than Deukmejian proposed for treatment of adult AIDS patients; $1.5 million for treatment of infants and children infected with the AIDS virus, and $5.7 million for the first phase of construction of a major research facility at the University of California, San Francisco.
Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), who chairs the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and fashioned the legislative version of the AIDS budget, has pushed especially hard for an increase in the state's public education programs on AIDS.
'Only Prevention We Have'
"So long as we don't have a vaccine or a cure in sight, it is crucial that we educate," the lawmaker said in an interview. "It is the only prevention we have right now."
Vasconcellos said that he does not want to pick a fight with Deukmejian over past budget vetoes. He agreed with Deukmejian that the state has done more than any other to combat AIDS. "The question is, will he join us in doing more," Vasconcellos said, "and I want him to say yes."
The lawmaker has assembled a 50-member task force, which includes researchers, physicians, gay leaders and government officials, to advise him on how much money is needed to fight AIDS. This year the group wanted to add $150 million to Deukmejian's proposal. But Vasconcellos told the task force members that the amount was unrealistic, and they pared it down to less than $50 million.
The legislator said he will meet soon with Deukmejian to make a special appeal for increased AIDS funding.
Deukmejian's deputy press secretary, Donna Lucas, said that the governor "will look at the budget as a whole that comes down to him" before he decides whether to approve the additional amounts for AIDS programs.
Statement of Concern
The radio speech on AIDS was intended as a personal expression of Deukmejian's concern about the growing epidemic, she said.
Deukmejian referred to the announcement last week by Proposition 13 co-author Paul Gann that he has AIDS. Gann, calling for a crusade against the disease, endorsed a series of bills by Sen. John Doolittle (R-Citrus Heights) that would require testing of prisoners and prostitutes and offer testing to others, including pregnant women and couples applying for marriage licenses. "Personally, I'm for testing everyone and telling everything," Gann said.
Deukmejian has not yet indicated how he stands on Doolittle's legislation, but in his broadcast he said that Gann's "courageous disclosure is one more disturbing reminder that this disease does not discriminate. It is a crisis confronting us all."