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Honig Joins Governor on School Plan : Pair to Cooperate on Legislation for Education Reform

January 07, 1988|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO — After feuding bitterly with him for most of last year, Gov. George Deukmejian announced in his annual State of the State Address Wednesday that Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig now will join him in co-sponsoring legislation to "reform" student curriculum and school financing.

The new Deukmejian-Honig alliance was disclosed in a package of what the governor called "common-sense policies" for 1988 and into the future, sketched with little detail in a 23-minute speech clearly designed to refute critics who contend that California's chief executive has no vision.

Drawing perhaps his biggest applause of all, Deukmejian announced that his budget will contain nearly $1 billion in new money for K-12 schools. This will result in "the highest level of support per student in California history, even after adjusting for inflation," he asserted.

Deukmejian also announced proposals to:

--Place $1.6 billion in school construction bonds before the voters this year, double what the governor originally had sought.

--Open a California trade office in Mexico City by the end of the year, adding to the trade offices the governor opened last year in Tokyo and London.

--Hire 1,200 more Caltrans engineers and other state employees to "speed up work" on about 1,500 highway projects.

--Hire 2,200 more public safety employees and also place a bond issue before voters to build more prisons.

Delivered in Assembly Chamber

Deukmejian delivered his State of the State Address from the dais of the ornate, 19th Century-style Assembly chamber, as governors always have throughout modern California history. On hand for what is always one of the biggest events of the year in the Capitol were the 120 members of the Legislature, other elected statewide office holders--including Honig and Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston--top state Administration officials and invited guests.

Deukmejian, appearing slightly nervous despite it being his sixth State of the State message, was interrupted nine times by applause. The biggest ovations came when he talked about spending more money for education and locking up criminals.

The address was broadcast by satellite from the Capitol and carried live by at least 14 television and 12 radio stations around the state.

The dollar-and-cents details of the programs Deukmejian outlined will not be unveiled until today when the governor sends the Legislature a state budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning next July 1. Deukmejian announced that his proposed budget will total $44.3 billion, and he calculated that this would exceed current spending by 6%.

"Although the high-tax advocates disagree, we choose the common-sense wisdom of living within our means, not the pie in the sky vision of expensive dreams," the Republican governor declared, expressing his well-known fiscal conservatism. And with a jab at Washington and, indirectly, the Administration of his longtime ally, President Reagan, Deukmejian added: "As long as I'm governor, California, unlike the federal government, will never succumb to the fatal attraction of excessive spending."

Honig sat in front of Deukmejian, at a lower level, during the address. Last year, Honig repeatedly charged that Deukmejian's spending policies were a "disaster" for education and the governor, in turn, called the schools chief a "demagogue" and "snake oil salesman."

But on Wednesday, Deukmejian drew applause with the announcement that he and Honig will team up to co-sponsor legislation aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Educational Quality created last year by the governor during the height of their public feud.

His Biggest Battle

Deukmejian's biggest legislative battle at the start of his sixth year in office will be the struggle to win confirmation of his nominee for state treasurer, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach). Democrats, who control the Legislature, are eyeing confirmation of Lungren as a bargaining chip to gain gubernatorial support of their own programs. Appealing to the Legislature's sometime sense of "productive" bipartisanship, Deukmejian pushed in his speech for Lungren's confirmation, calling him "a man of unquestioned integrity, intelligence and fairness."

But Republicans basically were the only ones to applaud; Democrats sat silently.

Deukmejian did not spell out details of the legislation, but mentioned that he and Honig agree that the state should develop a new, uniform curriculum that all schools can use throughout the K-12 system. He noted that the commission found "that student performance is suffering in a number of school districts that lack clearly defined learning goals."

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