Pete Wilson

36th Governor, Republican

State of the State Address

Delivered: January 9, 1991


  • State of the State Address delivered on January 8, 1992
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 6, 1993
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 5, 1994
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 9, 1995
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 8, 1996
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 7, 1997
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 7, 1998
  • Lt. Governor McCarthy, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tem, Members of the Legislature and fellow Constitutional officers,

    It's good to be home.

    Though custom offers me the privilege of access to the Floor of this historic chamber—where I spent such happy years—I'm here today in a different role. Because the people of California have conferred on me another honor and privilege.

    My eyes fall upon the 81st desk, its chair draped in a mourning shroud, a fitting memorial and tribute to Jesse Unruh. As Speaker, Jesse brought distinction and stature to his own Chamber and Legislature. But he also demanded and received recognition of the dignity and importance of state legislatures all across America.

    My eyes fall upon the 81st desk, its chair draped in a mourning shroud, a fitting memorial and tribute to Jesse Unruh. As Speaker, Jesse brought distinction and stature to his own Chamber and Legislature. But he also demanded and received recognition of the dignity and importance of state legislatures all across America.

    For they filled the memory as their presence filled this Chamber. They didn’t have to seek respect. They won it the old-fashioned way:

    They earned it.

    They were leaders.

    They were absorbed in policy. And they left a legacy legitimately entitled to be described as landmark legislation.

    Now it's our turn, yours and mine.

    Together, we must earn the satisfaction they enjoyed of knowing that we've made real and important differences in the lives of Californians.

    And we must do so in a time that would have challenged the souls and stamina of even the most distinguished lawmakers in our history.

    For we are compelled to set new priorities and to bring needed change when faced with an unprecedented gap between what State government receives in taxes and what we've been spending.

    With revenues declining, how can any new programs be undertaken when it appears that existing programs seem inescapably threatened by the budget crisis?

    Before the crisis consumes us, we must forge a new consensus here in the Capitol. Considering this time of fiscal stress in California-the challenge that we in this Chamber face is to begin to move from reaction and remedy to anticipation and prevention.

    Solutions should begin here and problems should end here, not the other way around.

    In many respects we must raise fundamental issues regarding the relationship between the governed and their government.

    "... this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free."

    So said Abraham Lincoln, who died to make men free. We have abolished slavery-at least the kind where one human being can own another. But have we, in truth, made men free?

    How free is the families whose members fear to walk their own neighborhood and must shun its parks and playgrounds?

    How free is the young adult imprisoned by illiteracy in the age of high tech?

    How free is the high school dropout who becomes a teenage mother or becomes enslaved by her addiction to crack?

    How free is her innocently addicted baby, and how free will that child ever be?

    How free is the Alzheimer's victim beloved by grandchildren whom he can't remember?

    The answer, of course, is that the freedom and opportunities of all Californians who suffer these and other afflictions are sorely limited. And this was true before this recession and the yawning gap between revenues and expenditures.

    Now more than ever, to lead is to choose. And our choice must be to give increasing attention and resources to the conditions that shape children's lives. The emphasis must be more preventive than remedial-a vision of government that is truly as uncomplicated as the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Now more than ever, to lead is to choose. And our choice must be to give increasing attention and resources to the conditions that shape children's lives. The emphasis must be more preventive than remedial-a vision of government that is truly as uncomplicated as the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    What I propose is for us to find answers, not just to the crisis which may loom in these next 18 months, but answers that will span the 18 years of a growing child. So today, I place before this Legislature 10 initiatives to invest in human capital through child development and education.

    Through these 10 steps, we will lead by choosing to prevent injury rather than react to it.

    First, the best, most prudent investment we can make as a civilized society is pre-natal care to detect and treat preventable birth defects. No other action can have anything like the impact of prenatal care in reducing the human and financial costs of the life-long disabilities that are prevented. I will present to you a $53 million plan to establish a public/private program to enable low-income women to purchase insurance for pre-natal and maternity services. Let us give children their first and perhaps most important break in the world even before they enter it.

    Second, I propose a $20 million "Healthy Start" program to add new funding to school districts to integrate county health and social services into the schools where our kids spend most of their working hours. Our children must come to the classroom healthy enough to concentrate and to learn. Too many today do not.

    I propose as well funds to provide mental health counseling in elementary schools to detect and treat just as early as we can children's emotional or psychological problems. I want to discover that a child is suffering from depression that prevents learning when she is 6 – not when she's 16.

    Next, there is no question of the significant benefits of preschool. Let us add $50 million in State money to the funding expected from the renewed federal Head Start program, to begin to provide preschool services for every low income four-year-old.

    Then, we can and must change young attitudes and change young lives. We must keep kids in school.

    Few things have inspired me more than the success of volunteer mentors like "The 100 Black Men" in Los Angeles in motivating youngsters without parental guidance to stay in school and to learn. I propose funds to recruit, coordinate, and train volunteers statewide to act as mentors. I especially appeal to employers to allow and encourage their employees to be the caring adults needed to give school-aged children the direction and self-esteem they so desperately need for success. The kids whose lives they touch graduate and go to college – not to prison.

    Next, we must commit to prevention of the staggering human and financial costs of infants damaged by their mothers' substance abuse during pregnancy. I ask the Legislature to fund a program of State-mandated drug education for junior high and high school students including a component on the dangers and risks associated with substance abuse during pregnancy. The best teachers for this grim class are those whose substance abuse has so damaged their babies.

    No case for prevention is more compelling than that for treatment of drug abusing pregnant women. Some may not even know, but their substance abuse is nothing less than child abuse through the umbilical cord-and we cannot permit it. Rehabilitation is our best assurance against their delivery of a second addicted newborn. An expanded treatment program, with a $25 million funding increase and the addition of more residential facilities, will begin to reverse this tragedy. Young women must have first claim upon our capability for rehabilitation.

    For the same reason, there must also be a substantial increase for the Office of Family Planning. Massive human and financial costs are associated with each unintended child that is born. Family planning education and contraceptive services are among the most sensible and humane investments we can make in our strategy of prevention.

    The ninth article of prevention requires school accountability and rigorous student assessment procedures. I proposed today funding the development of a new testing instrument to replace the California Assessment Program – a way for us to assess individual student performance and, yes, teacher performance, throughout their school careers.

    Finally, our children also need proper classrooms, and school construction needs in California are daunting. I will propose legislation to permit approval of local general obligation bonds with a majority vote for school facilities; as an interim measure, the placement on the June, 1992 ballot of a statewide school bond; and aggressive implementation of our commitment to year round schools.

    One more thing. I don't intend for these 10 proposals merely to serve as window dressing. Once the Legislature acts, the responsible officials in the Wilson Administration will discover that I am very persistent. I want results, not excuses or delay. Let me give fair notice: It's even likely that I'll visit state agencies to assure we are meeting our goals. Willie and David, I'd be happy to have you join me when the time comes.

    Preparing for tomorrow does not mean we lose sight of today. Let me assure you and the people of California that I will have no patience when it comes to the thieves, thugs, rapists, killers and drug-runners who prey on innocents in California.

    Early this year, I'll submit a number of proposals for reform that will make our streets, homes and schools safer.

    Dealing drugs — and let's not mince words — is a crime of violence, and a cold-blooded, premeditated crime for profit. To the callous criminals who would make fat profits by making addicts of our children, be warned:

    – If you sell hard drugs to children, anytime or anywhere that children congregate, I propose that you have 15 years longer to regret it than at present.

    – And for you who knowingly deal drugs to pregnant women, I pledge I'll do everything in my power to find a way to put you away for life.

    – I'll also introduce "truth-in-sentencing" legislation to limit the ability of violent and dangerous State prisoners to reduce their terms by earning good time credits for offenses.

    In addition to drug-related reforms, I propose these further efforts:

    – Convicted murderers don't deserve any more breaks. So apart from claims of new evidence, we're proposing habeas corpus reform to speed up the process in death penalty cases. We're fortunate that Attorney General Dan Lungren is an expert on Federal criminal laws and procedures. And he and I have already begun working closely to make these critical changes.

    – Finally, it is dangerous nonsense that rapists are set free after an average term in prison of only 31/2 years. Their victims do life. I propose a mandatory minimum sentence that will at least triple the time that dangerous sex offenders are removed from society.

    Due process and the protections of the Bill of Rights are in no danger in California. But the people are-and the time has come to provide protections and deterrents that will prevent them from becoming crime victims.

    Vigorous solutions for our human environment should not cause us to ignore the heritage and the future of our physical surroundings.

    Within weeks, I'll propose a reorganization plan to create a California Environmental Protection Agency – Cal-EPA. This consolidation of State environmental functions will focus resource management functions in the Resources Agency and environmental regulation and risk assessment in Cal-EPA.

    Pesticide regulation from the Department of Food and Agriculture we'll also move to Cal-EPA and the chemical risk assessment and toxic programs from the Department of Health Services. Cal-EPA will have a new charter and it will have this Governor's mandate that we are going to be sensible and caring stewards of our land, air and water.

    Speaking of water-it would be nice to have more of it. We've had four years of drought-persistent, deep and devastating drought. Things could worsen this year.

    I've ordered to be placed on my desk before the end of this month a full report of the extent of this looming crisis. I'll personally monitor this situation weekly and review recommendation on further actions as the season unfolds. This drought will not be on anybody's back burner. In the meantime, I appeal to every Californian to help as an individual in conserving this most precious resource.

    While we have no control over the weather, we do have the ability to affect intergovernmental relations. As a former mayor, I have great faith in the work of local governments – and great respect and sympathy for the difficult pressures under which they must labor.

    I propose shifting to local government both administration of public health and mental health programs, and all the new revenues to do the job and grow with program needs.

    In addition, there'll be legislation to grant counties the ability, with local voter approval, to increase sales taxes one-half cent to fight crime and to provide drug treatment and education services.

    We also propose to give counties flexibility to manage programs more efficiently-and even reduce the size of activities where warranted. We must review our mandates and eliminate the least important.

    Tomorrow, I'll present in detail everything you ever wanted to know about the budget of our State. I will spare you those details today. However, by way of sneak preview, our budget message opens with the following sentence of understatement: "As the State of California enters the final decade of the twentieth century, it faces unprecedented fiscal challenges."

    What that means, my friends, is that slow revenue growth and massively expanding expenditure increases could create over the next 18 months a deficit of more than $7 billion. Fortunately, you and I will not let that happen.

    However, if we did absolutely nothing to control programs and to erase this deficit over the next 18 months, the average family of four would see their state taxes go up by almost $1,000 per year. As an alternative, state sales taxes would have to increase by 42 percent. That simply is not fair-especially in a time of recession.

    Nor would it be fair to indiscriminately cut the budget to balance it as the Constitution requires. What you will receive tomorrow represents a balanced approach to prevent the impending crisis.

    My budget contains an 18 month action plan with the following key features: it is balanced with a prudent reserve of $1.4 billion; it contains no general increases in income, corporations or sales taxes; and it contains long-term budget reform. In order that we not aggravate the harm that would flow from our inaction, I'll submit a timetable requiring staged decisions much earlier in the spring than the normal budget cycle requires.

    We cannot temporize.

    We do propose additional revenues for our initiatives. They'll be raised on the basis of sound tax policy. We also fund population, enrollment and caseload growth for all programs. But with no funding for statutory or discretionary cost-of-living adjustments.

    As I've already made clear, our balanced approach accepts the premise that we cannot just cut expenditures to meet our goals. If we did so, we'd have to cut the safety net for senior needs-the blind and disabled-as well as eligibility for Medi-Cal. That we will not do.

    However, one expenditure will be reduced. The AFDC program should provide subsistence for poor children that will keep them, along with all other social services, healthy and well-nourished. But treating welfare as a socially acceptable permanent lifestyle is a disservice to AFDC children. It risks perpetuating dependency from generation to generation. And that's the worst thing we can do.

    The budget for AFDC has exploded in California. In 1975, California ranked 16th in such payments. Now we're second only to Alaska. The average payment in that period has jumped nearly 2 times. So that we pay a single mother with two children a monthly average of $694 compared to $184 in Texas. This kind of reform goes to the heart of what we must do: build for the future and, once and for all, bring an end to the warehousing of failure.

    Children in families that receive AFDC are also eligible to receive food-stamps, medical and dental care under Medi-Cal-including pre-natal care and immunization-and Headstart and pre-school.

    In addition to these services, the AFDC program should provide subsistence for poor children that will assure us that they will be healthy and well-nourished, stimulated and ready for kindergarten.

    But wholly apart from government's financial straits, we must never — if we care about poor children — permit welfare to be accepted as anything but a transition from dependency to independence and the dignity that goes with it. We must not even by implication legitimize the receipt of welfare as an acceptable permanent life-style.

    It is not acceptable for anyone capable of work, and it would be a terrible disservice to AFDC children to pretend otherwise. To do so risks perpetuating dependency from generation to generation. Moreover, the welfare of the child is best served by providing essential services rather than cash.

    We must imprison criminals who endanger others. But we must challenge to be free those citizens who can be. We must not let them choose to imprison themselves and their children in welfare dependency.

    Ultimately, in a free society, the quality of life depends not only upon responsible action by the state, but responsible action by each individual.

    John F. Kennedy said "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." He would be shocked and disappointed by America's epidemic of drug babies.

    There is no inherent right to have the public pay for the costs of voluntary individual conduct that inflicts harm requiring remedy upon ourselves, our family or others.

    Think of the drug mother whose drug use during pregnancy causes her baby to be born innocently addicted and severely retarded. She inflicts upon her child terrible suffering and lifelong injury. On the rest of us she inflicts costs of care through that child's life that are enormous. They are a fearful drain of scarce tax dollars desperately needed for other public purposes.

    There is, therefore, a very great right on the part of the public. We should expect and require individual effort to avoid taking those choices and actions that unfairly call upon the public to provide costly remedies.

    There is, therefore, a very great right on the part of the public. We should expect and require individual effort to avoid taking those choices and actions that unfairly call upon the public to provide costly remedies.

    An awakening of individual responsibility surely is the foundation for a free society and a free and prosperous California.

    Let me share with you a New Year's resolution I gave last week to a newspaper: "I will try to remember, first, that partisanship should provide a competition that benefits the people – not the partisans; and, second, that when this competition does produce real benefit for the people, there's more than enough credit to go around for all the participants in the consensus that produced it."

    Because our challenges are so great and the time so short, we will begin work immediately. Next week, I am bringing together Speaker Willie Brown, President Pro tem David Roberti and minority leaders Ross Johnson and Ken Maddy. Gentlemen, I look forward to our joint efforts for early legislative action.

    And, I'm happy to report to you the citizens of California that the leadership has already responded in a spirit of full cooperation.

    Make no mistake, my friends, California is not in decline. It's passing through heavy seas, for sure. But I do not doubt for a moment that we possess the character and steel to succeed once again.

    We will grow still greater; still stronger.

    California is still the finest place to live and grow and raise children of any place on this earth.

    More than 50,000 Californians are participating in Operation Desert Shield. If 19-year old men and women can stand astride the ramparts of freedom 8,000 miles away, then surely we can stand on the platform of responsibility in this Capitol.

    Our duty is to give meaning to their sacrifice and courage. To lead is to choose well for California.

    That is our honor and our charge.

    Together let us perform our duty faithfully and well.

    Let us keep faith with those kids in the desert–and all of California's kids.

    Let's make old Jess proud.