California's 'Duke' strides toward Democrats, deficit
Sacramento — California inaugurated a new governor Monday in an atmosphere as heavy with comparisons, contrasts, and contradictions as the Central Valley air was with winter fog.
Eight years ago, Democrat Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. ushered in what he described as the ''era of limits'' with an austere, almost secret ceremony. Sixteen years ago Ronald Reagan began his eight years of controversial conservatism with a four-day, Hollywood-inspired extravaganza worthy of Cecil B. DeMille.
George Deukmejian proudly ushered in his Republican administration with a two-day celebration somewhat dampened by the state's serious financial problems. The son of Armenian immigrants, who fought his way up the state political ladder and achieved the governor's chair in a stunning upset Nov. 2 over Democratic Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, indulged in a modicum of Hollywood hoopla staged by Walt Disney Productions and MGM-United Artists at a cost of about $500 ,000.
Sometimes called a ''Reagan clone'' by his political adversaries, Governor Deukmejian really is not so easily categorized. His conservative credentials were not established by jumping aboard the President's bandwagon, but through 10 years' service as a state legislator and four years as state attorney general.
California's ''Duke'' is anticrime, probusiness, and fiscally conservative. But he is also considered a political realist and has diplomatically promised an ''era of bipartisanship.'' That will have to be demonstrated as more than a slogan in coming months, since the new governor - like Ronald Reagan in 1967 - shares the state capital with a legislature that is firmly in Democratic hands.
Deukmejian's immediate task will be to gain control of what threatens to become a runaway budget deficit. Outgoing Governor Brown and the Democratic legislative leadership failed to reach a formula for harnessing the $2 billion shortfall projected for the fiscal year ending June 30.
The new governor says he wants to balance the budget by cutting services rather than raising taxes. Assembly Democrats, led by Speaker Willie Brown of San Francisco, want to impose some new levies, but have been stymied by a well-disciplined Republican minority.
It's a situation not often faced by incoming governors of California, a state much more accustomed to the challenges of growth than the trials of recession.
Besides having to work with Democratic majorities in the State Assembly and Senate, Deukmejian will be surrounded by Democrats in all the other elective state offices.
The contrasts between Brown's eight-year administration and the new Deukmejian regime already are clear. The youthful Democratic governor went outside the establishment and appointed many women and members of minority groups to state posts. The new governor's cabinet, which contains two former presidents of the California Chamber of Commerce and a secretary of health and welfare who served Ronald Reagan in the same capacity, is clearly ''establishment.''
Deukmejian, who campaigned on his record as a crime-fighter, hopes to place ''law and order'' judges on the state's courts. But he will have to wait a while to start that process - Jerry Brown appointed more than 70 new judges in his last month as governor.
In other areas, Deukmejian wants to create jobs by providing a more hospitable climate for business through tax breaks and reduction of environmental constraints on development. One of his top priorities is to dismantle the California Coastal Commission, an environmental watchdog.
And, responding to the defeat last June of the peripheral-canal project, Deukmejian will seek a new plan to provide more northern California water for the San Joaquin Valley and southern California.