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A Look Behind Claims in Debate

October 15, 1994

Gov. Pete Wilson and state Treasurer Kathleen Brown made a number of claims during their 60-minute debate Friday night. Here are some of them, along with analysis by Times staff writer Daniel M. Weintraub:

Brown: "My plan calls for cutting $5 billion from wasteful government programs."

Analysis: Although Brown has advocated cutting that much money, neither she nor her written plan spells out how she would do it. The two examples she gave Friday totaled $13 million. A detailed version of her budget proposal shows she is counting on only $2 billion from cutting waste by the fifth year after her plan is implemented.

Wilson: "We have cut $18 billion. . . . We have reduced the state general fund budget by fully one-third."

Analysis: Wilson has not cut $18 billion, nor has he reduced the general fund by one-third. The general fund was $40.3 billion when he took office. In the coming year, Wilson plans to spend $40.9 billion, according to his own Department of Finance. It is true that the state budget today is $18 billion less than state officials predicted five years ago. But most of that difference is a result of the recession, not state budget cuts.

Brown: "He has given a tax cut to the richest 2% of Californians."

Analysis: Actually, Wilson raised taxes on the wealthy. Brown was referring to an income tax surcharge Wilson and lawmakers enacted in 1991 to help close a $14-billion budget gap. The higher tax rates apply to people earning more than $100,000 annually and are due to expire at the end of 1995. Brown wants to keep the higher rates on the books. Wilson wants to let them expire.

Brown: "He said (in 1990) only he could balance the state budget without raising taxes."

Analysis: Wilson never pledged to balance the budget without raising taxes. He pledged to not raise income tax rates, a pledge he later broke when he raised taxes on the wealthy.

Wilson: "We have spent more for education, $4 billion more."

Analysis: It is true that total funding for education has climbed from $25 billion when Wilson took office to $29 billion this year. But most of that new money came from other than state sources. During that period, federal funds for schools grew 35% and local property taxes climbed 63%, while state funding for education grew by just 1.8%. Despite the increases, the schools have lost ground to inflation.

Brown: "When he was in the Senate, he voted for the (immigration) mandates that we're now paying for."

Analysis: Wilson did vote for the federal law that requires the state to provide health care to illegal immigrants. He said he did so because it was part of an omnibus budget act that was supposed to reduce the federal deficit.

Brown: "He wrote what's called the Wilson Amendment that opened up the floodgates, letting 1.1 million illegal immigrants into this country."

Analysis: Wilson as a U.S. senator proposed allowing employers to hire guest workers temporarily from other countries to pick perishable crops. His amendment was altered by Democrats in the House, and their changes made it easier for the immigrant workers to remain in this country. Wilson says he voted for the final version because it was part of the comprehensive immigration reform act.

Wilson: "We have cut welfare 15% in the last four years."

Analysis: Wilson and lawmakers have reduced cash welfare grants in three of the past four years, from $694 monthly to $593 for a family of three, a cut of 14.5%. A court has stopped the most recent cut and ordered the grants kept at $607.

Wilson: "I say we must end services to illegal immigrants."

Analysis: While Wilson has complained forcefully about the cost of these services, he is more reticent about which ones he would eliminate. He favors continuing emergency health care for humanitarian reasons and would not expel illegal immigrants from the state prisons because he fears these felons would not be required to serve out their sentences in their country of origin. Although he favors Proposition 187, he says he believes its provision requiring schoolchildren to prove their citizenship status would lead not to them being kicked out of school but to a lawsuit clarifying federal responsibility to pay for their education.

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