Pete Wilson

36th Governor, Republican

State of the State Address

Delivered: January 8, 1996


  • State of the State Address delivered on 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 7, 1997
  • State of the State Address delivered on January 7, 1998
  • Lt. Governor Davis, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President pro Tem, distinguished members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, distinguished members of the Supreme Court, and of course, my fellow Californians, than you and Happy New Year.

    As I look ahead to a new year, I'm full of optimism and anticipation for California.

    We stand on the edge of a new millennium, better prepared than any state in the nation to seize the reins of the 21st century if we have the courage to continue making change, to shape our destiny and to lead.

    We've already come so far. Just five years ago, TIME magazine declared that California was an "endangered dream."

    We were losing thousands of jobs a week, and young families were fleeing our state so fast U-Haul nearly ran out of trailers.

    Autopilot spending threatened to engulf state government in a sea of red ink.

    I wasn't sure if I'd been elected chief executive of California – or the trustee for its bankruptcy.

    But we cut projected spending by a third. We didn't just part the sea of red ink. We rolled it back and replaced it with a billion dollar surplus.

    And the people of California responded to tough times with characteristic grit and determination. Now, in the words of the Economist magazine – California is "roaring back."

    We've transformed our state jobs climate and brought California from fiftieth to first in the nation in job creation.

    We replaced some of the most dangerously lenient criminal laws in American with some of the toughest. And for the first time since 1952, the crime rate has dropped two years in a row. Now, the only folks fleeing California are those who've already got two strikes.

    This Golden State has once again become a beacon for people with energy, optimism and ambition. The watchword for thousands of Americans is once again, "California here I come."

    They are eager to join the most creative, the most dynamic and the most entrepreneurial people on earth. That's California's secret – and our richest resource: our people.

    By spring, California will have replaced all of the 730,000 jobs we lost in the recession.

    And not because we got the old jobs back but because Californians invented new products and new services which created new jobs. That's why California attracts three times more venture capital than any other state. And it's this private sector investment that starts our new businesses – that supplies the high octane fuel which powers California's dynamic, vibrantly growing economy.

    But what if we lose these entrepreneurs and investors?

    What if California were to lose the intense, on-going contest with neighboring states who daily woo California's jobs and job-creators?

    The risk-takers who create California's jobs are fully prepared to face the uncertainties of the marketplace and even the hazards of fire, flood or earthquake. But they can't survive California's costly and time-consuming over-regulation. And they can't survive California's all too high taxes.

    Our competitors know this all too well. That's why 29 other states cut their taxes last year.

    It's simple enough. They want our jobs.

    And we make it easy for other states to steal our jobs. California continues to tax both job creators and individual workers far more heavily than almost any state.

    If we continue to, we risk losing the entrepreneurs and innovators who give California our competitive edge. So let's resolve to keep them.

    I propose that we leave some of the surplus revenue created by this economic recovery with the people who earned it. Let's cut taxes 15 percent across the board for every taxpayer in our state.

    Let's let the families who earned this money – not government – decide how it can best be spent.

    Instead of letting state government grow, let's give small businesses the chance to grow – to reinvest that money to create still more jobs and still greater revenues.

    A tax cut will force state government to fundamentally rethink how it spends every dollar it collects from the taxpayers. We must ask whether each program or service is worth continuing; and if so, who can provide the best quality at the lowest cost.

    We must honestly examine the potential or privatizing and otherwise introducing the benefits of competition into the performance of public services.

    I've launched a top-to-bottom overhaul of state government. Before your tax returns are due in April, I'll deliver a comprehensive plan to be sure we get the best deal for your hard-earned tax dollars.

    As we race toward a new century, the old government model of tax, spend and regulate is as relevant to our ag3e as the horse and buggy is to the space age.

    We must also give careful consideration to the recommendations of the Constitution Revision Commission to restructure state and local government.

    We must invest in the future, and we will. My budget on Wednesday will include bond proposals to build the schools, roads, prisons and water facilities our growing state requires.

    Californians can't be truly free in the future if they're forced to live in fear of violent crime and the brutal gangs that have taken title to our streets.

    How can we even call ourselves a civilized society, when three-year-old Stephanie Kuhen is killed in a hail of gunfire simply because her family state wagon took a wrong turn onto a street claimed by a gang?

    Tough new laws will help – but only if they're enforced.

    We need more cops on the street. In Los Angeles County alone, gang member out-number police officers by more than six to one.

    So, let's give Californians a little direct democracy and the chance to make public safety a top priority. I propose that we provide a box on our state income tax returns that taxpayers can check. It won't add to their tax burden. It will redirect one percent of their income taxes to directly aid local law enforcement in their own community.

    We'll call it "Citizens' Option for Public Safety," or simply COPS. And for a tiny fraction of the state's budget, it can put hundreds more police officers on our streets, and prosecute and jail juvenile thugs who now go unpunished. We owe that commitment to our families. We owe it to the brave men and women who daily pin on a badge and risk their lives to prot3ecr ours.

    Let's also give these officers the other tools they need, not only to combat the crime done by juvenile gangs, but to crack the very culture of the gangs. Gang activity is nothing less than the hijacking of our neighborhoods by urban terrorists. And we will no more tolerate terrorism against our cities than against our country.

    Gang members must know that there will be stern consequences for their actions – even if they are minors. All too many of California's most vicious criminals embarked upon their ugly careers as teenagers. Yet our juvenile justice system remains dangerously lenient. It lets a teen thug break the law four, five , even six times, and escape with little more than a lecture.

    It needs a total overhaul.

    We must hold these kids accountable for their actions – with punishment that's swift and certain on the first offense. We must, for their sake and to prevent them from harming more victims.

    Those 14 and older who commit serious adult crimes must know they'll do serious adult time.

    That means being transferred to adult prison when they turn 18 – not remaining in the relative comfort of the youth authority, and not being released at age 25.

    And we should expand the curfews that have proven so effective at keeping kids off the street and out of trouble. San Diego's curfew helped cut violent teenage crime by nearly a third. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. San Diego's now being sued for that success by the ACLU.

    If anyone ought to be sued, it's the ACLU – for defying common sense.

    Curfews make sense. They prevent crime before if happens. And that's always the wisest course.

    Parents are morally responsible for the cots as well. Let's authorize police agencies to charge the parents of curfew violators the cost of enforcing the curfew.

    But as you heard me say five years ago and many times since, how much better to prevent crime than to punish it. Someone who wholeheartedly agrees is LAPD Officer Frank DiPaola. And he has reason to know. He's spent 21 years patrolling the streets of L.A. But five years ago, Officer DiPaola, who‘s with us tonight, started working with boys in trouble, because he wanted to prevent them from becoming the hardened criminals he sees on the street. Today, he and fellow volunteers work with 150 boys a year. He demands strict discipline from the boys, puts taggers on graffiti clan-up and insists that parents get re-engaged in their boys' lives.

    Officer DiPaola knows that the best way to keep boys out of hail is to keep fathers in the home.

    We're building too many prisons – instead of college libraries and laboratories – because too many absent fathers have failed to prevent the brutalizing of their sons.

    We need to show these kids that there are other choices in life.

    Some cities around the nation have found success with all-male classrooms for at – risk boys. There, strong male teachers serve as an alternative to gang leaders.

    So I propose establishing all-male Empowerment Academies as magnet schools. These boys can find the discipline and role models they'll need to escape a life on the streets.

    In the same way, you girls and their parents should have the option of all-female schools. I'd especially like to see such a school offers girls the opportunity to concentrate on math and science.

    I, for one, want the very best education for our future pilots, our future bridgebuilders, and especially our future throat surgeons.

    Education has always been the path to a brighter future.

    A growing economy has allowed us to provide our schools with a two-year budget that will increase spending in every California classroom by nearly $7,000.

    Important as the investment is, money alone won't fix what ails our schools.

    We've acted to free our schools of guns and drugs and the kids who bring them.

    We also need to junk the eleven-volume education code. It makes the IRS code look like a Dick and Jane reader. Let's start from scratch and replace it with a single volume.

    We need to remove the artificial barriers to the creation of more charter schools and even charter districts.

    And we need to enforce high standards and insist our children meet them – starting with the basics of math and reading.

    I look forward to working closely with Superintendent Delaine Eastin to bring much more intensive instruction in reading, writing and math skills in grades K through 4. Our success will mean dramatically increased learning through all the rest of a student' school career.

    That's why my budget will include one hundred million dollars to achieve that.

    California has some outstanding schools. But there are too many that are failing to provide our kids the education they deserve and need.

    No child should be trapped in these failing schools because their parents can't afford an alternative. So I propose a pilot program to offer Opportunity Scholarships to families of kids attending our lowest achieving schools.

    And just as we must change schools that failing our children, we must change a welfare system that is failing the very people it was meant to help.

    The states are far more capable than Washington of fixing what's wrong with welfare. In the past five years, California has saved taxpayers $9 billion, ended the incentive for having more children while on welfare and doubled the number of welfare recipients at work.

    The greatest rewards from our efforts, though, are the individuals now leading lives of independence and self-sufficiency – people like Trish Molina, who's with us tonight.

    Trish will tell you it wasn't easy when, as a single mother with three kids, she joined our GAIN program. But, it got her back in the workforce. Now she not only has job, but has had several promotions with her company in Riverside. But Trish will tell you that her greatest satisfaction is that now, when she looks in her children's eyes, she sees their respect. And they see a woman who takes pride in her work and in providing for her family.

    Eloise Anderson is another woman who knows the pitfalls of welfare. Though she's never received welfare, she grew up poor and has lived among neighbors who have. Today, Eloise is California's welfare director. She's helped thousands of young mothers to avoid or escape dependency by finding work and the dignity and self-respect that go with it.

    Eloise and I eagerly await action in Washington that will let us take a new approach that doesn't just reform welfare – but replaces it.

    We simply can't let another generation grow up thinking welfare is an acceptable career choice. A ten-year-old in Sacramento's Castori Elementary School was asked by his principal what career he wanted when he grew up. He said, "Welfare. Just like my mother and my grandfather."

    Instead of welfare, we'll offer able-bodied adults our new Ready-to Work program.

    It'll offer temporary help to those in need – to the mother fleeing from an abusive home or the family that loses a major breadwinner through death, divorce or abandonment.

    But the goal will be helping people to find work – not letting them sit around watching film-strips about work, but actually doing it – to learn the dignity and self-esteem that goes with seeing their name on a paycheck they earned.

    Those people who aren't yet prepared to work will get help. What they won't get is a welfare check. They'll continue to be eligible for food stamps. But we're going to replace cash grants to these individuals with vouchers for clothing and rent. So, their ticket to independence will be getting back on the track to work.

    And for those able to work who won't their full grant will last just 6 months. It will decline again after a year. And after two years, the checks stop for good.

    No one who can do any honest work has a right to live off the sweat to others.

    But most important of all, we've got to end the vicious cycle of promiscuity and irresponsibility that produces generation after generation of children giving to children.

    Every baby deserves a mother and a father.

    In 1945, one in 25 children nationwide were born out of wedlock. Today, the figure is almost one in three. In some neighborhoods, 4 out of every 5 children are born to an unwed mother.

    The consequences, for them and for us, are devastating.

    Children of unwed mothers are overwhelmingly more likely to drop out of school, to abuse drugs, to land in jail, to have their own children out-of-wedlock and to become trapped in welfare dependency. All of the problems tearing apart the fabric of our society have deep roots in this exploding epidemic of out-of-wedlock births.

    We must arrest and reverse it, or suffer the loss of the California we've known and cherished.

    Government alone can't solve this problem.

    Changing laws is one thing. But what we've got to change is the culture.

    We've got to reach our teenage girls that it's terribly wrong to have a child out of wedlock.

    It's unfair to her and monstrously unfair to her child.

    Simply wanting a baby to cuddle does not justify the decision of a teenage girl to become pregnant. As Dr. Grace Payne of the Westminster Neighborhood Association tells young girls, "A baby's not a doll you can abandon or take back to the store when you're tired of playing with it." Amen!

    And we must teach teenage boys that having a child doesn't make you a man – taking responsibility as the father of your child will.

    And for adult men who impregnate vulnerable teenage girls I have this message: That's not just wrong, not just a shame, it's a crime, a crime called statutory rape.

    We're not just going to hunt you down and dock your pay for child support. We're going to prosecute statutory rape in every county of California. It's not macho to get a teenager pregnant. But if you lack the decency to understand that yourself, we'll give you a year to think about it in county jail.

    We've got to instill values and responsibility as the governing norm for the behavior of our kids including those without parents. But this simply can't be left to social workers or child welfare agencies.

    This profound change will take commitment from parents and teachers, churches and synagogues, business and labor, private groups from the PTA to the NBA, and courageous souls like Dr. Grace Payne whose life work is changing young lives.

    Dr. Payne, who's here tonight, spent years running the Westminster Neighborhood Association in Watts. She not only cared for young, unwed mothers, she helped thousands of young girls avoid unwed pregnancy by instilling in them discipline and self-respect.

    Government should not operate these programs, but we can support those, like Dr. Payne's, that are a proven success. We can encourage their expansion and duplication. And that' what I intend to do through our new Partnership for Responsible Parenting and the award of Challenge Grants.

    The people I've mentioned in the audience tonight aren't the kind of heroes who regularly bring a packed stadium crowd to its feet. But in terms of their impact on the human condition, people like Dr. Payne, Officer DiPaola, Eloise Anderson and Trish Molina are engaged in quiet heroics. They are changing our children's future. And that's work you do one child at a time.

    I'm convinced that no education program that seeks to modify or prevent irresponsible adolescent behavior will be anywhere near as successful as one reinforced by a strong, caring adult who's won a child's trust and respect. Before a mentor can provide guidance or direction, the child must believe that the mentor cares about him or her.

    But too many children don't have that strong and caring adult in their lives.

    That's why I attach such importance to the California Mentor Initiative which has brought together business and civic leaders from throughout the state. We've set an ambitious goal: to provide mentors for one million kids in the next four years.

    Our challenge as a society is nothing less than recasting and re-invigorating our culture.

    We've got to persuade California's children that a baby is an awesome responsibility. Your baby is your responsibility – not the taxpayers!

    That means that education and marriage must come first – before you have children.

    If you don't want a child or won't love a child, don't get pregnant.

    If you want a child but are not prepared to be a parent, don't get pregnant.

    If you will have no father for your child, don't get pregnant.

    If in all of these cases, abstinence or birth control are the only responsible choice.

    Contraceptive services are already provided to women on welfare. Unfortunately, too few use them. So, I'm directing that our health care providers be required to provide instruction in pregnancy prevention to these women. And my budget will include funds to ensure that working poor women have the same access to contraceptive services as women on welfare.

    Despite the millions of loving natural parents and adoptive parents, there are still too many children who are not loved, too many who are abused and neglected, too many we must place in foster homes.

    Nothing will have a more profound impact on the future of California and the quality of our children's lives than to discourage unintended pregnancies and the teen births that sentence both mother and child to years and even lives of despair.

    One of California's first colonial governors, José Castro, said that one day our children would "build ladders to touch the sky, and once in the heavens change the whole face of the universe and even the color of the stars."

    Just a few weeks ago one of California's ladders did indeed reach the stars, a ladder we call Galileo. For six years this spacecraft – designed, built and operated by Californians – hurtled billions of miles through space for a rendezvous with the planet Jupiter.

    Like Galileo, our entire state has endured a remarkable journey these past five years. It tested our strength and our character. But unlike Galileo, our journey has just begun.

    We must give every child the chance to start life in a caring, stable home with a mother and father.

    Every child deserves a safe neighborhood.

    They deserve a good education in a safe school free of drugs, guns or gangs.

    They deserve a state that competes and wins to provide them the jobs of the 21st century.

    They deserve the opportunity to succeed and be all that they can be through hard work, initiative and individual merit.

    If we give them that, there's no limit on how high our children can reach.

    As the Galileo mission proves once more, Californians are capable of building ladders higher in the sky than anyone else ever imagined.

    So, let us set aside personal and partisan differences to do the people's business.

    As I told this audience in my first message as governor five years ago, if we succeed, there will be abundant credit to share, and if we fail, no amount of finger-pointing will absolve us.

    So let's resolve tonight and throughout the year that we will empower Californians , that we will do our part so every young boy and girl can grow up to build their own ladder to the sky and reach for the stars.

    They will build upon what we leave them.

    Let's give them a launching pad to realize their most magnificent dreams.

    Thank you, good night, and God bless you.