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Deukmejian Puts Honig Proposals in Spending Plan

December 30, 1987|CARL INGRAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The state budget that Gov. George Deukmejian will propose to the Legislature next week will contain high priority programs recommended by one of his severest critics, California schools Supt. Bill Honig, a top Administration official said Tuesday.

State Director of Finance Jesse R. Huff, architect of Deukmejian's spending plans, indicated that a new "spirit of openness" to more fully involve Honig in budget-writing decisions produced a "fair" program for public education.

"I believe that we have dealt very fairly with the superintendent and with education," Huff said. "It is my hope that he concurs in that judgment and I think he will."

A Hopeful Outlook

For his part, Honig, who has assailed the governor's current budget as a "disaster" for education, said of Huff's remarks: "I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm hopeful."

Huff's indication that Honig would look more favorably on the budget Deukmejian will send to the lawmakers Jan. 7 than he did on the current $40.5-billion state spending program seemed to be another indication of a thaw in the icy relations between the two officials.

For one thing, Deukmejian invited Honig, who is mentioned in speculation as a potential contender for governor, to a private luncheon in September when they agreed to cool their shrill rhetoric and try to work together.

For another, Honig has actively cooperated with a citizens commission that Deukmejian created to examine whether education funds are being spent wisely. In what was widely regarded as a slap at Honig, Deukmejian did not appoint him to the commission.

Huff said the Department of Finance, where Kremlin-like secrecy cloaks even the most minute of budget decisions, decided thistime around to expose Honig "to our overall budget picture a little bit more" and "I think he responded in that spirit of openness."

He said "we sat down and talked with him" last month, asked Honig to lay out his priorities and to justify them. "If they are good priorities, then he should be able to convince (us)," Huff said. "He did some convincing."

"I think that approaching the whole budgeting process from that angle was very positive," Huff said.

In yet another display of new-found "openness," a member of Huff's staff who sat in on his meeting with reporters quickly called an assistant to Honig to brief her on Huff's remarks about the schools budget.

Honig, who first was elected in 1983, said his communication now with the Deukmejian Administration "is the best it has been since I've been up here. It looks like good receptivity on the part of the governor, although all this is conjecture until you've seen the actual budget."

Signs of Support

He said he believes he won support for his argument that with more than 100,000 new students enrolling each year, "it is not enough just to maintain the status quo."

As is his practice, Huff refused to disclose how much the budget will total or to discuss specifics. He did caution against expecting any major new programs, insisting that the proposal fits into "the category of continuing past efforts, building on things that we have already achieved."

He said, however, that the governor's financial advisers forecast a "very stable growth" in revenue of 6% to 8%. Huff repeated the governor's belief that there would not be a repeat in fiscal 1988-89 of this year's tax rebate.

As expected, Huff said the budget would propose a rainy-day reserve of at least $1 billion and would call for no new taxes.

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