Pete Wilson

36th Governor, Republican

State of the State Address

Delivered: January 8, 1992


  • State of the State Address delivered on January 9, 1991
  • 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 Tempore, Members of the Legislature, Constitutional officers, and fellow Californians, thank you...

    Times are tough all over – truly tough. I've seen pain in the eyes of working people all over California – men and women proud of their skills and proud of their work, but no longer able to provide for their families.

    I've seen worry in the face of a farm worker idled by a killer arctic freeze. I've seen worry among our own state employees, among entrepreneurs and aerospace workers. And I've seen the kindly face of a carpenter who could find no work framing houses and now makes children's toys for free. Tough times demand compassion, realism and honesty.

    We must have little patience with Pollyannas and even less with preachers of a California or national malaise.

    So yes, 1992 promises to be another year of great challenges – but also a year of great rewards for a people and a state with the heart and purpose and direction not just to survive hard times, but also to be ready for good times. Sir Francis Bacon put it well: "Adversity doth best discover virtue."

    Let me share with you a more recent and even more relevant message. Veronica Valencia is a 17-year-old senior and honor student at Rio Linda High School here in the Sacramento area. In Veronica's own words, "Life has not always been easy for me."

    She has lived the last eight years with her grandmother and money has been scarce. Veronica has worked at baby-sitting and after school in a doctor's office to earn money for her college education. She is determined to go to UC Davis.

    As she put it: "My education is my top priority because ... education is what will lead me to success and my goals."

    And what about hard times? Will Veronica let hard times defeat her attaining her goals and dreams?

    No way — not Veronica:

    "No matter what obstacle has come my way, I have overcome it. I am determined to attend UC Davis and obtain my doctorate in psychology. My drive and determination will take me far."

    Veronica, I agree. And I applaud you. You are an inspiration. Among those you have inspired is your 15-year-old cousin, Jennifer Blount. Following your example, Jennifer has raised her grade point average from 1.3 to 3.0.

    Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Ms. Veronica Valencia ... and Ms. Jennifer Blount.

    Veronica has much to teach all Californians and certainly those of us privileged to be in this chamber.

    We must do all we can to speed economic recovery – not just wait for it. True, the recession is worldwide and California can't cure it by our actions alone. But with legislative authority to expedite $500 million worth of state construction projects, we can move months earlier and accelerate needed and already approved projects. So before we do anything else, let's put thousands of Californians back to work.

    And Jet's get moving on replacement and expansion of our infrastructure – the schools, roads and bridges we need to accommodate a California that is 30 million people and growing. I ask you to place on the June and November ballots $6 billion of new general obligation bond authority, including $1.6 billion for school construction, and bonds for prisons, higher education, transit, water and sewer facilities.

    When recovery does come, we must be ready to take full advantage of it.

    We can't wait for good times to make basic course changes that were needed but ignored long before the recession ever hit ... changes that will be required even when good times have returned.

    We must ask if all our good intentions over the years have not placed an unintended job-killing burden on California's employers.

    The people are entitled to the truth. The truth is that California has lost much of the competitive edge we used to enjoy, the edge we need to provide jobs and more jobs for our growing population.

    California has already lost almost 400,000 jobs in the 11-month period that ended just seven weeks after I took office.

    So the challenge before us is as tough as the times. We must win back our jobs. We must transform this season of crisis into the greatest season of reform in California history...

    If we are to save jobs, California must be competitive with other states and other nations, not an economic Atlas bound by red tape.

    That's why I appointed a Council on California's Competitiveness, 17 distinguished leaders of California business and labor, chaired by Peter Ueberroth. Their charge is simple – find ways to remove the obstacles, the burdens, the delays, and the costs that kill our jobs. We must stop the hemorrhaging of California jobs to competitor states and nations.

    Regulations must not exist for their own sake. And they clearly transgress the bounds of reason when members of Estrella del Mar, a community of nuns in Los Angeles, are forced to wait 15 hours in line over three days to apply for a permit to operate a home for abused children. Mindless regulation is a never-ending hassle for charities. In the business world, it throws people out of work.

    But an even more deadly job-killer is the archaic, fraud-ridden workers' compensation system that is driving jobs out of California. It pays phony stress claims at an unaffordable cost to employers, but denies decent benefits to genuinely injured workers. It's time for real reform – for major overhaul and not just tinkering.

    I ask for your cooperation in making reforms that – if made promptly – can breathe life back into California's economy. It's no exaggeration to say that for all too many California employers and California workers, this is a matter of economic life or death.

    Nothing we do can have a more profound and lasting impact on California's competitiveness than the quality of our schools. We must assure our kids the best break possible in an ever-shrinking and increasingly competitive global marketplace. We must invest heavily in their education.

    That's why, in the budget for the coming year, I propose to fully fund Proposition 98 ...

    Specifically, I propose to fully fund enrollment growth to give a cost of living adjustment, and initiate important new educational programs, amounting to a $1.8 billion increase for California's public schools.

    My budget also provides additional funds to expand summer school and buy more textbooks.

    Last year, I called on California to adopt a vision of government that is preventive rather than remedial - a vision of government as simple and wise as the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let's build on our preventive approach by dedicating more money for preschool, for Healthy Start and for early mental health counseling.

    President Bush has advanced ambitious National Education Goals in his program, America 2000. Here in California, I'm working with Secretary DiMarco, Superintendent Honig, and leaders of education and business to prepare California to participate as an America 2000 state. The stated goals are not just for our schools, but involve the entire community. Together, we must develop higher standards for student achievement, for school readiness, for adult literacy, for lifelong learning ... and especially for involvement of the entire community in the success of our schools.

    To achieve our goals for California education, we must make basic reforms.

    First, the Legislature should act without further delay to create the Child Development and Education Agency. Children need education and preventive care to achieve their full potential. To help them reach their potential, California needs a "Children's Secretary."

    Education today is encumbered by bureaucracy, fettered by old rules. As Lincoln said, it is time to think anew. It is time to free our schools. We in this Capitol should not usurp the role of local school boards. We should measure the success of our schools by results, and not by their slavish adherence to categorical prescription. Let's reward the only success that matters: the graduation of a truly well-educated child.

    We need to support a volunteer program to free teachers to cope with overcrowded classrooms.

    We must recruit volunteer mentors to be the caring adult whom every child needs.

    If a parent can't or won't provide the guidance and discipline needed for the child's development and self-esteem, then a mentor must or we risk losing that child.

    The boys are at risk of becoming drop-outs, gang members and gang victims or part of a swelling prison population. The girls are at risk of becoming drop-outs, pregnant and the drug-addicted mothers of innocently addicted and tormented babies. Mentors can prevent these tragedies. This, by the way, is not just the view of a 58-year-old man.

    Seventeen-year-old Veronica shares this view. But again, let her tell you in her own very eloquent words:

    "It really disturbs me to see girls my age or younger who are pregnant or who had a child or even children. Maybe they could have had a chance if given proper guidance. Many of these girls depend on welfare and have had to drop out of high school."

    Veronica fears a vicious cycle and "lost hope for future generations" as the children of these pregnant teenagers repeat the experience of their young, uneducated and dependent mothers.

    But must we lose hope for future generations? Not if we are wise enough to learn from Veronica's experience.


    "I may not have had the material things my peers have, but I had something more valuable. This is guidance and support to stay in school and get an education."

    Veronica is right: Let's enact a program to provide mentors to fill that need and give that guidance and support to every child.

    Knowledge is meant to be shared. We should recognize and assist employers like Rockwell International, who encourage alternative credentialing of their retirees and employees. We should enable talented men and women to share their knowledge and bring the excitement of real life experience into the classroom.

    Nowhere in the realm of public service is accountability so important – or so lacking – as in public education. We must change that. The education of our kids is just too important not to.

    The best teachers deserve the best pay. It is not beyond us to devise a measure of teacher performance that is objective and fair. Kids get graded, so can teachers. So I ask the Legislature to approve merit pay for teachers who excel.

    And the best schools deserve to be recognized by parents as the best choice for their kids. Competition brings improvement, whether it is between students, teachers or schools. So I ask the Senate to approve the school choice legislation now pending before you ...

    We are right to invest heavily in education – to give our schools both the money and the attention they deserve. Education holds the key to the quality of our children's tomorrows.

    But for education to fulfill its promise, we must first have a healthy child.

    A healthy child can learn. An unhealthy child cannot.

    Poor health that robs a child of vigor and energy and laughter can cast a shadow over the life of the adult this child becomes.

    So I ask you to take California another major step toward preventive government. We must assure that our children will be healthy enough to learn, and to grow strong in mind and body and spirit.

    I propose a children's health insurance program to promote access to basic health care services for all uninsured California pre-schoolers. This program will provide primary and preventive out-patient services to promote good health and minimize injury and illness. I call it CheckUp.

    Through a public-private partnership, it will ensure coverage for California's children, from birth through age five, with preventive and primary care, with physician and clinic services, with prescription drugs, dental services and vision care. State subsidies for premiums on a sliding scale will assure help to the poorest children.

    Even kids who are eligible for Medi-Cal often have difficulty getting access to these critical services. So we're going to devote funds to improve access to primary and preventive care for those pre-schoolers too.

    Every kid deserves a healthy start in life. We must make sure that every kid gets one.

    But we face the harsh reality of numbers ... and the requirement to make hard choices.

    As we attempt to provide properly for the health and education of California's children, we're all but overwhelmed by the relentless increase in their number. The unhappy irony is that even as we spend more and more money on children, we can't keep pace with this increase. We face the threat of having less to spend on each child. Even more ominous – as we add more than 200,000 children to school enrollments each year – is the growing competition for funds between education and public assistance.

    Welfare is one of the fastest growing programs in our state budget – growing at almost 12 percent per year – four times the rate of California's population growth. Seven percent of our present recipients did not live in California one year before going on welfare. Incredibly, California, with only 12 percent of the nation's population, bears the burden of 26 percent of the nation's total welfare spending by all the states. And that's why spending reform and welfare reform are one and the same.

    Runaway spending is unfair to California taxpayers. And it's not fair to job-seekers – or to the working men and women of California. Their jobs are threatened – threatened by a continuing exodus of employers fleeing both the present burden of high taxes, and the ever-present threat that autopilot spending by the state will make that burden even heavier.

    But most importantly, the status quo is not fair to the children of California – children who are at risk of having state spending for education and preventive programs crowded out by state spending for public assistance. The people should know that a competition perilous to education is underway. Programs that last year consumed 77 cents of every tax dollar threaten to consume it all. The Department of Finance projects that by the year 2000, spending at the current rate would put the state in deficit by $20 billion.

    The people need to know the truth – the truth that the train leaving Sacramento station is a runaway – the truth that if we don't take control, if we don't get off autopilot spending now, state government is headed for a fiscal trainwreck in which the victims will be schoolchildren.

    To avert it, we must pass the Taxpayer Protection Act on the November ballot. It offers the people a clear choice.

    We dare not tax jobs out of California and cannot spend without limit. California's future will be determined by how California chooses to spend its tax dollars. The people will be afforded a clear choice by the Taxpayer Protection Act. I'm confident they will choose a California which offers quality education and enrichment of individual potential ... rather than permanent maintenance and permanent dependency.

    A welfare system that punishes people for working is worse than irrational. It's cruel.

    Instead, the Taxpayer Protection Act provides incentives for the poor to find work. It rewards teen-age parents for finishing high school and penalizes those who drop out.

    Further, it makes welfare what it should be: transitional aid to the needy, not a permanent way of life. For all except those who cannot work, the grant will be reduced by 15 percent after six months.

    Strong families anchor our society. Welfare should not pull families apart. It should encourage families to come together and stay together.

    But instead the teen-age girl who is not getting along with her parents is now encouraged to leave her home and family – to seek a false and ironic "economic independence" by getting pregnant and going on welfare. Half the women now on welfare in California first became pregnant as teen-agers.

    The welfare check for support of that pregnant teen-ager and her baby should be drawn to a fit parent or legal guardian who provides a home for her and her baby – and not to the teen-age mother.

    Children ought not to have children ... and in all conscience, California must reform a welfare system that encourages them to do so.

    To leave that defect uncorrected is to be guilty of collective child neglect.

    During the decade of the '80s, births to unmarried mothers in California soared by 83 percent. We must end the insidious incentive welfare offers single mothers – especially unmarried teen-age girls – to have more children once they are on welfare ... Tragically, these child-mothers find themselves trapped in dependency for life. So the Act sets a maximum family grant.

    It's not fair to ask taxpayers to step forward if we allow fathers to walk away from their children to abdicate their responsibilities and abandon their children. So the Act requires recipients to identify the fathers of dependent children.

    California can no longer afford to be a welfare magnet. So those who have just moved to California, and who seek welfare, will receive a grant for one year equal to that paid by the state from which they came.

    In this time of budgetary restraint, we will be forced to cut many worthy programs. But one thing we will not do: We will not indulge in the false and foolhardy economy of releasing dangerous criminals ...

    To the contrary, the people of California deserve to be protected against them by prison terms that match the seriousness of their crimes and the threat they pose to society.

    So I propose a reduction in the credits that now cut in half sentences served by even the most violent felons. The fact that a convicted rapist, drug-dealer or armed robber has done a good job in the prison laundry does not render him a safe bet to return to society ...

    Women have lived in fear for too long in this state. One reason is that in California convicted rapists serve an average of four years, and can serve as little as 18 months. So I propose a sentence of 18 years to life for the worst sexual predators. Rapists should count their sentences not in months, but in years.

    Drugs remain a terrible menace. They are the most frequent motive for too many violent crimes. Moreover drug use by our young people continues to waste lives ... and too often to take lives. Drug use causes heartbreak to all who love the user. We must break the chain of drug use and suffering.

    We won't achieve that by legalizing drugs. Instead, we must reduce demand by preventive education. And, to take the profit out of drug dealing, we must increase the risk and cost of conviction to the dealer.

    So let's throw the book at dealers who sell drugs to children. Let's lower the amount of drugs sold that is required to add to the sentence served by the dealer. And in the name of common decency, let's lock up for good the dealer who knowingly sells drugs to pregnant women.

    And let's allow persons closest to a murder victim to make a Victim's Impact statement. Let them testify during the penalty phase of a death penalty case. Victims' families are in pain. Let their grief be heard. Let justice be done ...

    We need new long-term policies that require conservation and encourage water marketing, as well as new facilities south of the Delta. We need measures to protect fisheries and wildlife habitat, as well as rural and municipal uses. We can ensure that for the first time in decades that farmers, city-dwellers and environmentalists will have confidence that there will be enough water for all their needs. To meet these needs, Secretary Wheeler's Water Policy Task Force has been at work upon specific recommendations for a year. Shortly I will propose a comprehensive state water plan based on the work of the Task Force.

    It will reflect the same kind of consensus between competing water users that we have achieved in seeking an end to California's Timber Wars. We will end those wars by enacting an historic accord reached by responsible representatives of the timber industry and responsible environmental advocates – a Grand Accord, to save our jobs and save our old-growth forests. Join me in this great endeavor...

    The people of California can further enhance the beauty of our Golden State by approving Resourceful California – a $628 million bond initiative which I propose for the November ballot. Working together, we can preserve forests, expand parks and protect natural habitats.

    We all support needed standards to assure proper protection of our physical environment. But let's not confuse proper concern for environmental quality with obstructionism that uses delay to render a project economically infeasible. Permit applicants who have met standards should not be delayed. Delay adds nothing to the environment, but adds price to the product and unfairly subtracts jobs from our economy.

    In keeping with my commitment in creating the California EPA last year, I've directed Secretary Strock to develop comprehensive legislation and regulation to streamline the environmental permitting process in California.

    Finally, managing the impact of California's phenomenal growth upon our physical and human environment is a central priority of my Administration. I'll soon make a major announcement to present a new blueprint to manage California's growth.

    And so the state of our state is good – and can be much better ... if California makes important changes.

    The good news is that the changes California needs are fully within our power to make.

    They won't be easy.

    They'll cause us discomfort.

    They'll require that we have the courage and candor to reexamine our assumptions, and honestly assess the impact the real impact of our most generous impulses and altruistic good intentions.

    We must beware the operation of the Doctrine of Unintended Consequences.

    Let's attack the challenges of the new year with the zeal of true reformers.

    Let's reform the embarrassingly uncertain process by which we adopt the budget. It's just too important not to. The budget tells far more about our priorities and commitment than all the speeches made in this magnificent building all year long.

    And let's choose as our first budget priority the enrichment of individual human potential. Let's invest in the education and preventive care of children.

    Let's inoculate against the waste of any opportunity for their enrichment by enacting health care access for California's pre-school children.

    Let's reform a welfare system that, left unreformed, will increasingly become unaffordable to taxpayers and a disservice to poor children, as it's more a cause than a cure of family dysfunction.

    Let's prevent crime victims by protecting women and children against sexual predators and drug dealers.

    Let's at long last make auto insurance affordable for working people by enacting a no-fault system.

    Let's end timber wars and water wars and take such care to manage both our human and physical environments that God will smile upon our stewardship of all His creatures.

    After all, we are among the most fortunate and favored of His creatures: whether by birth or by choice, we are Californians ...

    We are the lineal or at least spiritual descendants of an earlier generation of Californians who weathered the Great Depression and led the Free World to victory over fascism in World War Two ... who built a system of aqueducts that dwarfed those of ancient Rome and a truly world-class system of higher education.

    We hold our parent's legacy in trust for our children. If we are to keep faith with both generations if we are to know the satisfaction and pride of passing on to our children a still better California we have no time to lose.

    There's too much to do to waste a moment or an ounce of energy on self-pity. Veronica Valencia has no time to waste on malaise or other excuses for not trying.

    Good things happen to those who make them happen.

    So let's make good things happen in 1992. After all, we're Californians. We believe in winning.

    Over the past remarkable year, I've been proud to witness the current generation of Californian's respond unselfishly and with courage to virtually every kind of natural disaster. Everywhere I've looked, men and women have put their homes, their livelihoods and even their very lives on the line to help others. Here in Sacramento, the only risks we must run are political and how trifling they are by comparison.

    There is immense talent in this chamber, and genuine desire to serve.

    I look forward to working with you this year. I seek your counsel. I welcome your cooperation and your leadership. If you and I are as courageous, as visionary and as compassionate as the people we serve, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

    Thank you,