Delivered: January 1, 1895
TO THE LEGISLATURE AND THE PUBLIC:
It is not without a realizing sense of the great responsibilities devolved by the Constitution upon the high office whose duties I am about to assume that I approach the labors before me. The ceremony just concluded possessed an interest for you quite different from that which it held for the person most intimately concerned, for to him it is a notification that the time has arrived for going to work. Henceforward for four years I am to be charged with the very responsible duty of directing the affairs of the State, within the lines laid down by the law, and of guarding the interests of all her people, so far as those interests may be served by the Executive in the faithful and conscientious discharge of the functions of his office. The people of California have reposed in me the greatest trust within their power to deposit with any citizen, and here in this imposing presence, and on this most impressive occasion, I pledge my manhood, my honor, and the best ability that I am able to exercise, to its safe-keeping and faithful execution. I pledge this as well to those of my fel1ow-citizens who are not here to-day as to you who are present to the farmer tilling his field; to the miner delving in the mountains; to the mechanic in the shop; to the merchant in his counting-room; to the man of capital in his bank, and to the laborer on the highway.
Circumstances which are generally known, having been subjects of comment in the public press, make it privileged that I should say a word concerning the unfavorable conditions under which I approached this the culmination of the recent campaign for the Governorship. I had hoped after the election to make a thorough study of the workings of our State institutions, and from personal observation and from contact with their officers, to acquire that knowledge which only such methods of inquiry can yield; but I was deterred from doing so by the necessity of remaining in conference with my friends and my party to protect the result which was achieved at the polls and save from impairment the plain verdict of the people.
Ours is a large State geographically, and large also in the number and scope of its public institutions. To make a personal inspection of all of these, and to study their needs with a view to the curtailment of their expenses, were a task requiring for its intelligent performance every day from the 6th of November to the present date. This task, however, is deferred only for the present, and I shall perform it at the earliest opportunity.
But the general condition of State extravagance in California is a matter of common notoriety. Public knowledge of our recklessness in this regard has transgressed our territorial limits and gone to the country, deterring immigration and the influx of needed capital to develop our latent resources. Prudent citizens of other States, especially of the more economically managed Eastern commonwealths, naturally hesitate before determining to move to and settle in a State whose current annual tax rate is equivalent to an assessment of between $7 and $8 upon every man, woman, and child of the population.
When, furthermore, it is considered that the burden has been permitted steadily to increase for the past ten years, in presence of an equally steady decline in the wages of labor and the profits of business, the course of extravagance and profligacy upon which we are entered and which we are pursuing, as if by predetermined purpose to see how far we can proceed before the crash comes—when the situation is regarded in this light, it is discovered to involve almost a public crime.
In every avenue of industry the wage rate has persistently declined, in conformity to the changing conditions through which the country as a whole is passing. The farmer, too, receives less for the products of his acres than ever before in the history of our State. Private business has been gradually adjusting itself to the new relation of values, but the business of the State appears to be conducted upon the old lines, as though its managers, or those responsible for its conduct, were unaware that any alteration of conditions had taken place since the early days.
The managers of large corporations have scaled salaries and eliminated every possible expense consistent with the safe and economic administration of their companies' affairs, but the affairs of the State are not only permitted to move forward in the old groove of maximum pay for minimum service, but there has developed in recent years a distinct tendency to go from bad to worse.
The correction of this enormous and overshadowing evil rests with the two departments here represented (Legislative and Executive), working jointly and harmoniously together for the perfection of such legislation as may be considered necessary to eradicate the fiscal canker that is consuming the substance of the people. Laws designed to bring the public expenditures within the limits of reason, to lop off redundant functionaries, to concentrate distributed institutions of like character under a single management, to reduce salaries as far as may be deemed consistent with the efficiency of the service, and in general to place the affairs of the State upon the same safe business footing as that of a successful private enterprise, must originate with one or the other of the two houses. The Executive can only advise, recommend, or approve, and the first he takes the liberty now of doing, in a necessarily imperfect way, but nevertheless so as, it is hoped, the direction may be made clear in which the retrenchment so imperatively demanded may be effected without the embarrassment of any useful public institution, or in any way hampering the administration of the State's affairs.
The assessed valuation of property for the year 1893 was $1,211,572,074. Taxes at the rate of 45 cents on each $100 on this amount of valuation would produce for the support of the State government for the forty-seventh and forty-eighth fiscal years $10,904,148.66.
The Controller's estimate of the cost of the State government for the forty- seventh and forty-eighth years is: $11,749,254.66 Less the amount limited by the pledge of the Democratic platform of 1894: 10,904,148.66 Leaving a deficiency of ..................................... $845,106.20
(In the biennial report of the Controller for the forty-fourth and forty-fifth fiscal years, he has omitted from his estimates of the cost of the State government for the forty-seventh and forty-eighth fiscal years, the item "Interest and Sinking Fund," which amounts to $282,270. This amount is included in the above statement.)
The Republican platform of 1894, on State taxation, reads as follows:
"We pledge our nominees that the State tax levy, except in cases of war or insurrection, shall not exceed for any one year 50 cents on each $100 of assessed valuation of property, and as much less as a most economical administration of the State government will permit."
The assessed valuation of property for the year 1894 is $1,204,976,952. Taxes at the rate of 50 cents on each $100 on this amount of valuation would produce for the support of the State government for the forty-seventh and forty-eighth fiscal years:.$12,049,769.52 Less the amount of the Controller's estimate for support of the State government for the forty-seventh and forty-eighth fiscal years : 11,749,254.66 Leaving an excess of ......……………..$300,514.86
(The omitted item in the Controller's report, as stated above, is included in this statement also.)
The foregoing estimate includes only the running expenses as provided by law, and does not cover such outlays as those of the Bank, Building and Loan, Harbor, and other commissions or institutions having special funds, or the cost of new buildings, additions, or improvements, which swell the total to the neighborhood of eight millions a year
COMPARISON OF STATE EXPENSESThe subjoined tabulated statement of comparative expenditures of twenty-two leading States of the Union is derived from the Federal census. It is therefore in the highest degree trustworthy, and sheds a flood of light on the question before us. It would have been more interesting and more instructive if the comparisons could have been brought down to date, but in the limited time devoted to the gathering of the information herein contained that were practically impossible. No doubt the other States have decreased their per capita expenditures since 1890, in conformity to the greater purchasing power of money, while ours have increased. The reflection that in that year we ranked fourth in total outlay for State purposes and twenty-second in population, is well calculated to induce the most careless citizen to pause long enough to ask himself whether the time has not fully arrived for calling a halt. (Tables [PDF] )
We are by reason of these abuses not only taxed beyond the necessities of our condition, but are misrepresented and injured abroad through the false reputation given to our people by the apparently wide prevalence of mental disorder in the State. That these are but statements of fact let the reports of the two oldest of our institutions for the treatment of the insane bear testimony. The Directors of the Napa Asylum in their latest report use this language:
"California supports too many people in her insane asylums. These institutions are crowded, to the detriment of a proper or successful treatment of the curable insane, and are made unduly expensive by maintaining persons—cases of harmless chronic mental unsoundness and mere imbecility—who ought to be supported elsewhere."
In 1886 Dr. W. II. Mays, then Superintendent of the Stockton lunatic asylum, said:
"This asylum has, from an early day, carried along on its reports a large contingent, drawn from all quarters, of chronic incurable dements, imbeciles, dotards, idiots, drunkards, simpletons, fools—a class, in fact, of harmless defectives usually found in poorhouses or elsewhere. In the absence of county charitable institutions it was necessary to send them here. There was no other place for them."
And this condition has existed for years, notwithstanding the plain legal provisions prohibiting the commitment or retention in such institutions of these classes of society's dependents. The class that may be admitted is clearly indicated in Section 2215 of the Political Code, thus: "A person who is so far disordered in his mind as to endanger health, person, or property." By Section 2220 the retention in a lunatic asylum of any persons other than those specified is prohibited. The law unfortunately does not permit the Governor to remove appointees in the management of these institutions, but I shall give this abuse my careful attention, and require the law to be strictly enforced, and we shall, I hope, find a remedy somewhere.
As a step in the direction indicated, I would recommend that a bill be passed abolishing existing asylum boards and providing for one nonpartisan board of from seven to nine members, to control the entire system of lunatic asylums, with power to employ one general supervising head, who shall be an expert, and not otherwise connected with any of the institutions. The saving by such a system would be large, and local persuasion and influence could circumvent neither the expert nor the general board. While all reasonable liberality should be shown in the care of the insane by the State, not one dollar of the people's money should be wasted, nor should a single person who ought to be supported in a county almshouse be maintained in a State institution.
A law also suggests itself requiring the keeping of uniform books and the making by the officers of our State institutions of uniform reports, annually instead of biennially, so that any citizen might trace each item from beginning to end of a transaction. All moneys received by any of these establishment, instead of being placed in a "contingent fund," to be drawn upon at will by the board, should be paid into the State Treasury, duly credited, and only drawn out on properly approved warrants and vouchers.
At Folsom the State has one of the finest prisons and manufacturing sites in the world, and as the Constitution, in Section 6 of Article X, requires in definite terms that convicts shall be forced to labor for the benefit of the State, the tremendous water-power at Folsom might, in conjunction with the prison labor, be turned to profitable account. The high prices paid by many of our public institutions for supplies, purchased from the lowest bidder, suggest that nearly all the articles needed in these institutions might be economically manufactured at Folsom. At present we must, in certain of these purchases, accept the product of Eastern convict labor. The suggested change would be beneficial in two ways: It would be a measure of economy and be highly reformatory, occupying the minds and bodies of the convicts; and, by teaching them some handicraft, enable them to become useful members of society on their release. The Legislature in any action that it might see fit to take on this suggestion should have a care that convict labor be not permitted to compete with the free labor of our own people further than is unavoidable.
On this subject the late report of State Prison Director De Pue contains valuable recommendations. One of the most important industries that might be established at Folsom, he says, is that of manufacturing ice. The cost would be surprisingly small, and the value to all classes, especially to butchers, fruit-raisers, and handlers of perishable products in general, would be very great. Ice can be profitably manufactured at Folsom and sold to our people at a very small fraction of the usual market rate for natural ice. The free labor which the establishment of such a plant at the State Prison would displace would be comparatively insignificant, for about the only employment furnished by the natural ice companies that would be affected is in harvesting and storing a gratuitous product of nature for a short time in the winter. This recommendation is contained in the Democratic State platform of 1894.
These observations apply with equal pertinence and force to the Mining Bureau and the scientific functions assumed to be discharged by the agriculture societies. The agriculture societies as now managed are of but little or no benefit to the people. There is but slight competition between classes or sections, and but small rivalry in anything except horse racing. Three annual fairs—one south of Tehacehapi, one between that point and Sacramento, and one north of Sacramento—would serve better to stimulate a wholesome spirit of emulation and rivalry than the present plan of a fair in nearly every county, encouraged by State aid. The place of meeting could be changed yearly, and an annual appropriation of $5,000 for each would be amply sufficient, in addition to the means provided by the local Directors. Three district societies and one State society would be far better than the existing system.
The Mining Bureau costs the taxpayers upward of $50,000 biennially, and our district fairs upward of $200,000, not including printing. The saving that would be accomplished by placing the commissions referred to under the management of one or both of the universities would be from $225,000 to $300,000 biennially, not to speak of what might be spared to the people in the matter of printing the reports.
Society must of necessity take care of its dependent poor, especially those whose accumulation of years renders them unable to take care of themselves; but it is submitted whether local communities might not perform this duty more economically and efficiently on their own account exclusively, without assistance from the State. The allowance from the State for each of the aged poor on a county roster is often greater than the expense of his maintenance, leaving a residue of profit and encouraging a fictitious enlargement of the roll. There is no more reason why the State should contribute to the support of the poor of local communities than there would be for an appropriation to help along the fire or police departments of the different towns.
I therefore recommend the repeal of Chapter 96 of the Statutes of 1883, entitled “An Act to appropriate money for the support of aged persons in indigent circumstances."
I also recommend the repeal of Chapter 198 of the Statutes of 1891, entitled "An Act fixing a bounty on coyote scalps." The Controller's estimate of the cost of carrying out the provisions of the last named Act for the ensuing fiscal period is $200,000. Here is an easy saving, then, of a million dollars in these two items, and if we are sincere in our purpose to retrench and reform there is no good reason why the saving should not be made.
“Compared with other States, of even far greater population, this amount [$8,000,000 a year] is simply enormous. There is no good reason for such extravagance. While it is true our State is large in territory, its products many and varied, and we are now undergoing what-might be termed a creative or formative period, nevertheless there are numerous items of expense that may be done away with without the slightest injury to the State's interest, and in these stringent times it should be the first duty of the Legislature to reduce taxation to the lowest possible limit."
The truth is that our existing scheme of county government is a species of the most unjust and unequal special legislation imaginable, along with being, as the courts have so frequently declared, obviously unconstitutional. The necessary limitations of this communication do not permit a full consideration of all its inequalities and iniquities. The illustrations presented, however, will suffice to draw your attention to the condition of the law, and suggest the necessity for its amendment. We should lay aside all other considerations than those of the public good and devote ourselves assiduously to this important task. The members of the legal profession in your respective bodies, comprising, as they do, some of the best lawyers in the State, should have the matter referred to them, instead of to persons unfamiliar with the many decisions of the courts covering the matter. Should you pass a new Act, drawn in accordance with the suggestions of our Supreme Court in Dougherty vs. Austin (94 Cal. 608), our people would be relieved of many oppressive and unjust burdens and freed from the necessity of much useless litigation.
The laws under which city governments operate are in a scarcely less chaotic state. Take for example the Municipal Improvement bill, known as the Vrooman Act, as amended, and under which public work is done. This, in many cases, imposes unjust burdens upon property owners and is essentially a contractor's law. It should be carefully amended. Property owners should have a right to appeal to the courts against inferior street work or the failure of the contractors to comply with any condition or specification of the agreement, and every contractor should be compelled to execute an undertaking to keep the work in repair for three years, and during that period to remedy all injury or damage thereto arising from inherent defects. The cost of preliminary street work under the present Act can easily be reduced over 50 per cent.
A second amendment greatly desired is one giving to local communities more liberal self-government. The spirit of the people is inherently for self-government in matters purely local, and each community should be allowed to have a charter passed to meet its own peculiar municipal needs. As the law now stands, a city with a charter has to keep watch at Sacramento during each session of the Legislature for fear of changes being attempted under the forms of general laws, for the special benefit of some other city. Let us have a provision of the Constitution submitted to the people which shall be sharp and expressive and beyond all question, giving to cities the right of regulating their purely local affairs without the interference or dictation of a law-making body composed of representatives from every other part of the State.
Another needed change in the law is one requiring the acknowledgment hereafter of an illegitimate, to entitle him or her to inherit from the father, to be in a signed writing, specifying the person intended to be legitimized, and indicating the intention to legitimate, which writing should be signed by some person as a subscribing witness thereto, in the declarant's presence. At the same time, a bastardy law permitting the proof in court by ample evidence of the paternity of a child and requiring its support during minority by the father, should be passed. The judgment as to paternity before the father's death should legitimize the child equally and for the same purpose as an acknowledgment. In all societies, barbarous as well as civilized, the doctrine is accepted that a man who brings a new life into the world should be forced to care for it during the period of dependence. It is bad enough for the babe and mother to bear the shame, while the father passes oftentimes as a citizen of unquestioned respectability.
If precinct officers of different politics can be found who will falsely certify returns under the very eyes of political watchers, how little faith is to be placed in a political worker of one party who has sole charge of the ballots, a slight change in which might defeat a candidate whose election meant the removal of the person in whose custody the ballots were.
Provision should be made for the recount of a precinct or county before the Supervisors or Election Commissioners on establishing to a Superior Court that there is a reasonable ground to apprehend fraud or mistake, and a bond being given for cost in case the apprehension prove unfounded. This should especially be so as to State officers. But before this change can be made a satisfactory method of preserving the ballots must be devised.
No man should be exempt from serving on a precinct election board because of his wealth, and no man should be excluded on account of his poverty. The whole system of appointment of precinct election officers ought to be changed. The names of eligible persons should be drawn from precinct ballot-boxes at least thirty days before election, by a Judge of a Superior Court, or by some one in his presence, the same as jurors are now drawn. The persons selected should be required to make excuses or serve, or be punished for contempt. Then each political party managing a canvass should be permitted to have watchers, paid by itself, at each booth to watch the count and returns. Ten days before election the Inspector should be required to appear before the Registrar, or County Clerk, and receive his instructions.
While this method would not make the board equal, politically, there would always be in its membership good men, and political parties and candidates would watch more carefully the result.
It seems needless to say that if the Governor is to be held responsible for the conduct of the departments whose incumbents he names, he should have the control of those functionaries. In this State we should either have a system of continuous tenure during good behavior, as under the civil service classification of the General Government, or else the appointing power, which, in the public mind, is held responsible for the conduct of the appointee, should be vested with authority to remove the appointee, in the language of the Constitution, '~for misconduct, incompetence, or neglect of duty, after an opportunity to be heard on written charges."