SANTA BARBARA — Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) Friday called for reform of the state budget process and a moratorium on new voter initiatives that would earmark tax money for specific purposes, such as this year's proposal for higher levies on liquor, wine and beer.
The Republican candidate for governor also said he welcomes a proposal by Assemblyman Phil Isenberg (D-Sacramento) for a moratorium on tax and spending legislation during the first five months of the 1991 legislative session while the new governor grapples with an anticipated state fiscal crisis.
Wilson said the state budget process has been turned into "an absolute travesty" by initiative measures sponsored by special interest groups and approved by voters over the years.
The amounts of spending locked into state law or the Constitution by these initiatives makes it impossible for the governor and Legislature to set priorities, Wilson said in a lengthy answer to a question following an address to the Channel City Club.
"The fact of the matter is that the budget process as it exists is a system of preferred claims on the one hand and underfunded accounts on the other," Wilson said.
Among state programs cheated by the current process are those for law enforcement, the mentally ill and homeless, the developmentally disabled and drug and alcohol abuse, he said.
Wilson did not mention specific initiative measures, but those passed in 1988 alone include Prop. 98, which sets aside about 41% of the state's general fund for basic public education, and Prop. 99, which raised state tobacco taxes with the funds directed to various health programs.
Prop. 133 on the Nov. 6 ballot would increase the state sales tax by one-half cent per dollar for anti-drug and law enforcement programs. Prop. 134 would significantly boost liquor, alcoholic beverage taxes, with the money going to alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment, emergency medical care, health and social services and law enforcement.
Prop. 126, placed on the ballot by the Legislature and backed by the alcoholic beverage industry as an alternative to Prop. 134, provides for smaller alcohol tax increases.
Wilson has declined to endorse Prop. 133, but said he may vote for it and considers it a worthy use of tax revenues. He said Friday he has not decided whether to back Prop. 134, the alcoholic beverage tax increase.
In his prepared speech Friday, Wilson said more state resources need to be devoted to public safety, and that if the Legislature refused to approve those measures, he would take them to the voters in an initiative petition campaign at the next election.
Wilson's Democratic opponent, Dianne Feinstein, also has called for budget reform, but she has opposed any changes in the Prop. 98 allocation to schools or to present levels of spending for many health and welfare programs.
Wilson also said he opposes any further initiative measures that write complex environmental regulations into state law, such as Prop. 128, the so-called "Big Green" initiative sponsored by a coalition of conservation organizations.
"It's a lousy proposition," he said.
Wilson said he is considering endorsement of Prop. 140, the initiative sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum that would limit terms of state constitutional officers to eight years, state assembly members to six years and senators to eight years.
"I'm not greedy," he said. "I'll be content with eight years" as governor.
The only California governor to be elected to a third term was the late Earl Warren, in the 1950s.
Wilson indicated he thought term limits would not be necessary if California had a reapportionment system that fairly allocated legislative seats to Republicans as well as Democrats. But in the wake of the June 5 defeat of a GOP-backed reapportionment reform initiative, he said, "it may be that radical surgery is required to throw some of the rascals out."
On Friday, the Wilson campaign began running a new television commercial that emphasizes the support Wilson enjoys from law enforcement groups. The commercial also tries to link Feinstein to Rose Elizabeth Bird, the former state chief justice ousted from office in 1986, largely because of her opposition to the death penalty.
Dee Dee Myers, Feinstein's press secretary, said: "It's just another negative commercial by the prince of negative politics, Pete Wilson. He is constantly running against the past because he can't seem to find a way to run against her (Feinstein)."
Feinstein's most recent television commercial, which has been running for several weeks, talks of her support for the death penalty.