Delivered: January 4, 1927
Four years have passed, and again, in accordance with statute, and with time-honored custom, the two houses of the Legislature are met to induct into office a new administration for the State of California. In accordance with that custom, also, it devolves upon me, as one invested with large responsibility for this administration, to speak somewhat of its plans and purposes, somewhat of its ideas and ideals of government, which will actuate us during the next four years.
In the first place, I should be remiss if I did not express to the people of California, through you, their representatives, my appreciation for the generous confidence shown me at last November’s election. I accept the result of that election, not at all as a personal tribute, but rather as the endorsement of a philosophy of government which I trust has been consistently mine throughout my eighteen years of endeavor to serve the State. Those of us who hold to that philosophy represent very definite governmental principles, which have prevailed in California for the major portion of that time; principles which sixteen years ago aroused, and which today inspire, the great majority of our people; principles which this administration will try to translate into action.
In the first place, I imagine we are not afraid to be progressive. By this I mean we are not afraid to try new things which appeal to us as sane and reasonable. No one of us, I hope, is a revolutionist or radical, who desires change merely for the sake of change. But I believe we all recognize that government, like everything else in a growing world, must progress, and that we are willing to promote such progress as may best serve the public interest.
Secondly, I believe it will be conceded that we have not entered public service merely for the sake of advancing our own selfish interests. I like to think that you and I are interested in government from the standpoint of the greatest good to the greatest number; that we recognize the purpose of government to be the increasing contentment and protection and prosperity of all our people. For this reason we accept humanitarian ideals in government, wherein the human being assumes an importance at least equal to that of the dollar mark.
Finally, and very fundamentally, I know that we shall all insist on a “square deal,” fair and impartial government, devoid of special privilege or favor. Ours is, and should be, a government of equal opportunity under the law to every citizen and every legitimate interest. We insist, however, that special interests seeking undue privileges keep their hands off our legislative or other governmental machinery. Particularly must we be sure that all our governmental regulatory agencies shall be above suspicion in their wholehearted fealty to the interests of the whole people.
I want to point out that there is nothing in this conception or progressive government to give the least concern to any legitimate business, or industry, or corporate enterprise. We want these to grow and prosper, for we recognize that their prosperity is linked with the prosperity of all our State. I desire this to be a business administration in the truest sense of that term; which means not only that it shall be conducted along business principles, but also that it shall be an administration for the fair treatment and support and encouragement of every legitimate business.
In conformity with the requirements of the State constitution, I have already done much work upon the budget which is soon to be submitted to the Legislature. I have carefully reviewed the budget figures and requests as made to, and partially passed upon by, the present Board of Control. After conferences with the heads of the departments and institutions concerned, I have succeeded in reducing these figures by somewhat more than $10,000,000. Despite these reductions, the curve of the State’s expenditures is still going upward; a condition which will continue as long as the State continues to grow.
The budget which will be presented this year will contain for the first time all the expenditures of the State?expenditures of every kind, irrespective of the agency through which they are made or the sources from which their revenues are secured. I feel that this frank and complete statement of all expenditures not only keeps faith with our people by removing all possible grounds of future budget controversy, but also is the only way to live up to the spirit of the constitutional budget amendment.
Ever since the adoption of our present tax system, State expenditures have tended to outrun our revenues. We have thus far been able to keep the revenues up to the requirements of a growing State through periodically raising the tax rate to be paid by public utility corporations. Each such raise has produced a temporary surplus, which has later been absorbed by the increase of expenditures beyond current revenues. Thanks largely to the receipt of impounded money from the King tax bill suit, we shall enter the next biennium with a considerable surplus in the treasury. But the State Controller, in a recent public statement, has pointed out that we have already reached the period when unescapable fixed charges and normal increases in expenditure will of necessity cut that surplus almost in half; in other words, a period when our expenditures are unavoidably greater than our current revenues.
At previous similar periods we have met the situation by an increase in the rate of public utility taxes. This same procedure could be followed again. I doubt, however, if sufficient facts have been accumulated during the past four years to furnish the Legislature an adequate basis for determining accurately the extent to which such an increase would be equitable, either to the various classes of public utilities or to the citizen taxpayer. Moreover, I believe that with your cooperation we can conserve our present surplus to meet the excess of expenditures over revenues for the next two bienniums, and at the same time find the opportunity to do a thing which I believe should have been done long ago?namely, to make a careful and expert study of our State tax system.
I would sum up what I have said by the following three recommendations:
First: That the present Legislature provide for a commission to investigate whether our existing tax system, with periodic justifiable increases in public utility tax rates, will continue to provide necessary revenues for the State’s normally increasing expenditures; and, if not, what modifications should be made in our present system to put it upon a safe, permanent, and equitable basis.
Second: That, pending this investigation, at least during the present legislative session, no change of any kind be made in our existing provisions for raising general revenues.
Third: That, during the period which must elapse before any change in our tax system can take effect, our surplus shall be conserved as a reservoir to provide for unforeseen contingencies of any kind, and to meet the necessities of the inevitable excess of future irreducible expenditures over corresponding future revenues. Ordinarily, with a settled and adequate tax system, a large surplus is probably unnecessary and unwise. Under present circumstances, however, it must be protected at all hazards by an insistence that the strictest economy in every direction shall prevail. My work upon the budget has convinced me that the positively fixed and unavoidable increases in governmental expense will leave no room for a dollar of expenditure which can not justify itself as absolutely necessary.
The government of California, like that of most other states, has gradually taken on a large number of functions, social, regulatory, and developmental?functions which some governmental agency must perform, and which for many reasons naturally devolve upon the State. This has given rise to numerous boards and commissions, now operating independently of each other, but of such nature that they readily fall into groups, each group containing agencies with interrelated and sometimes overlapping functions. California, eight years ago, made a preliminary study of this problem to determine whether it would not be in the interest of economy, and more especially in the interest of efficiency, to organize these groups into departments of the State government.
At that time, only a beginning of this work was accomplished. I accordingly invite the attention of the Legislature to this problem, and suggest that the work of departmentalizing the State’s activities be at this time continued. Probably this work can not at present be fully completed, for the reason that certain of the State’s offices and commissions are written into the State constitution, and can be reorganized only by constitutional amendment. One innovation, however, can be accomplished now, and I believe might be very wise - namely, an arrangement by which the heads, or directors, of such departments as may now be formed shall be constituted into a Governor’s cabinet or council, to the end that at regular meetings there may be discussed in orderly fashion the various problems which confront the State. Some system like this would, I believe, be far more businesslike and effective than such haphazard and infrequent consultations as must otherwise normally take place between a Governor and our numerous unrelated boards and commissions.
I pass now to certain problems of the State’s material welfare, which must be solved, and speedily solved, if the growth and development of California is to continue unretarded. I believe that the problem of most general interest at the present time is the completion of our State highway system.
I shall waste no words in emphasizing the importance of this problem, or the economic value of providing, at the earliest possible moment, a complete system of State highways. I believe that the speedy completion of our highway system is an end desired by every citizen. The only question is the best method of securing the necessary revenues.
In the first place, it is clearly impossible to secure our necessary highway revenues from the State’s general fund. To do this would inevitably lead to the necessity of imposing a State ad valorem tax upon our citizens, already suffering under too great a burden of local taxes. Secondly, I do not believe that at present we should attempt to divert to the construction of new roads the money now being used to save our existing roads through the reconstruction process of widening and thickening. Finally, I am convinced that we should not depend upon the issuance of bonds for this purpose, partly because of the extra expense involved, and partly because we can not afford to delay our highway work by waiting two years for a bond election.
Accordingly, if we are to satisfy the almost universal demand that we at once resume work upon our State highway system, we are thrown back upon the necessity of adopting some plan which will produce the necessary revenues. It is true that such a plan was defeated at the recent election, but when we consider the narrow margin of the defeat, and analyze the reasons for it, I am sure that it is not to be taken as a verdict of the people against the general proposition, nor as precluding the Legislature from now undertaking to find some solution of it which will be assured of general approval and acceptance.
I believe, that with proper regard for the interests involved, the Legislature should determine upon a policy through which this vitally important problem may be solved. Toward this policy I offer the following suggestions: First, let the northern and southern sections of the State determine upon a list of roads, such, for instance, as all interstate roads and other roads included in the first bond issue, to be set aside as a charge against the State as a whole. Second, let the revenues for remaining roads, both for construction and reconstruction, be allocated fairly and equally between the two sections of the State. Finally, fix upon a gasoline tax, or some equivalent method for the financing of new roads; and thus, by giving this proposition a fair trial, permit the coming administration to show what can be done in highway construction, to the satisfaction and for the benefit of the entire State. It is unnecessary to point out that the problem must not be complicated by any attempt to add to the present State highway mileage at this time.
I pass now to what I regard as the problem most important to the future growth and development of California?the problem of water storage and distribution. Owing to its extremely rapid increase in population, the southern portion of the State has been compelled to face this problem earlier than has been necessary for the north. The prospects are very bright that the Congress at its present session will furnish the needed relief for the south by passing the bill for the dam at Boulder Canyon. California will certainly do all she can toward this end by making clear her attitude through representatives of this administration in Washington, as well as by legislative action which will fully safeguard the interests of the states comprising the basin of the upper Colorado River. I feel assured that this Legislature will also meet the acute need of the south for an adequate domestic water supply by authorizing the formation of a metropolitan water district such as may permanently solve her difficulties along this line.
In the other portions of the State, however, the solution of the problem in its major aspects is still before us. Our population is growing and is undoubtedly destined to become very large if we can supply the need of an adequate food supply. Our local irrigation projects, excellent as they are, can obviously not meet this need. Our agriculturists who depend upon underground water are becoming more and more disturbed as they see the water table sinking lower and lower. The solution of this problem can no longer be left to haphazard and unrelated development. There is no doubt that it is high time to seek some comprehensive plan which will meet the needs of both our great central valleys. The water which falls so bountifully during our winters, and which now wastes itself in bay and ocean, if properly stored and controlled and placed upon the land, would be sufficient to water every irrigable foot of this vast area, beside practically eliminating all future danger from winter floods.
This enterprise, however, is so vast that it can be financed by no one agency alone. The farmer whose lands are benefited can not meet the expense, as he largely does in the case of minor irrigation projects. The county whose cities are dependent upon local agricultural prosperity must also do its share. The State must take the leadership in coordinating and planning the whole. The federal government possibly must be asked to advance the money for the initial construction, just as is proposed in the Boulder Canyon project. It is highly desirable that an advisory commission be provided, consisting of State officials and engineers, and the representatives in California of the federal departments interested, to consider the coordination of present activities and of proposed plans for the future. Past Legislatures have provided money for a comprehensive study of this problem, and the report should soon be in your hands. I trust that it may point the way to a beginning of this great undertaking.
I shall here mention forest conservation only from the standpoint of its importance to our water resources, for there is no doubt that by the burning of the forests and brush lands of our watersheds an even greater loss is sustained through the diminution of our water supply than through the actual damage to our timber products. I feel that every possible effort should be made to minimize the annual destruction of this coverage for our watersheds, as well as to encourage the reforestation of our cut-over timber lands. I shall recommend in my forthcoming budget a forestry increase of at least 50 per cent, to aid in the building of fire trails and in other protection against fire, for I believe that the expenditure of money for this purpose constitutes the truest kind of economy.
This water problem is naturally of special importance to our agricultural interests. Agriculture is California’s basic industry. We have long ago learned that whatever contributes to the prosperity of the agriculturist proportionally contributes to the prosperity of the State as a whole. Accordingly, the problems of agriculture can not be dismissed as of importance only to the farmer. They are problems which the entire State has a vital interest in solving, and are matters which at all times should engage the attention of the Legislature.
The spread of organized crime throughout the United States has become a very real problem. This has become the day of the professional criminal, who has in cold blood organized the business of preying upon society. The effective way to reduce the numbers of these professional criminals is to make it clear to them that their chances of escaping the penalty of the law are too remote; that the risks are so great the crime business doesn’t pay. If the criminal or potential criminal is to be deterred from his crime, he must be convinced that his punishment will be certain and that it will be prompt. A wise coordination of the agencies of crime detection and prevention, coupled with carefully considered reforms in our obsolete criminal procedure, should effect a prompt reduction in the amount of crime in California.
I believe that in our penal institutions every effort should be made to study the individual prisoner, and to restore him, whenever possible, to useful citizenship. I do not believe, however, that the criminal should be sentimentally pampered as the innocent victim of untoward circumstances. I believe that the prison should provide plenty of work, wholesome food, medical attention, and an opportunity for self-development through education, but there should be no reason for criminals to regard it as a desirable place of residence.
Furthermore, I believe in a careful segregation of prisoners, so that the first offender may escape contamination by the hardened criminal. I believe in a wise and conservative use of the parole system, to be applied to such prisoners as the Parole Board feels morally certain of redeeming thereby. However, I also believe that parole is rarely justified in the case of a repeater, or habitual criminal. I emphatically believe in the prison road camp, and hope to see its work extended as rapidly as possible, in order that discharged prisoners may leave with strong bodies, and such small sums of money as they have honestly earned, thus giving them a fairer chance to break away from crime and criminal associations.
Finally, I believe that we should lose no time in relieving the intolerably crowded conditions in our own State prisons, where two, and sometimes three, prisoners are confined in the same cell. I also believe that San Quentin is no place for our women prisoners, and I would favor the appointment of a commission, consisting partly of women, to plan for the establishment of a separate penal institution for women offenders.
Eighteen years ago California passed her first direct primary law. From session to session since that time the law has been improved, until it is now conceded to be possibly the best in the Union. Despite the concerted attack now being made upon the primary in certain other states, I confidently predict that the direct primary in California has come to stay. Our people have learned that only by this means are they able to secure candidates of their own choice. Any modification of the law must not be an attempt to weaken it, or break it down, but rather an effort to improve and strengthen it, possibly by some plan such as the proposed “sponsor system.”
What has been said about the direct primary may also be said about direct legislation. Our recent election has again demonstrated the ability of our voters to do their own discriminating thinking on initiative measures. An initiative or referendum usually presents an issue rather clear cut and easy to understand, and is greeted by the electors by a much more decisive and intelligent vote than is ordinarily accorded to a constitutional amendment submitted by the Legislature. In short, direct legislation in California seems to play no small part in sustaining the interest of the people in the problems of their government.
Those of us who have had experience in legislative work recognize the fact that nearly all proposed legislation falls very naturally into two classes, more or less mutually interdependent, and yet essentially distinct. The first has to do with material things, with business and its regulation, with the conservation of natural resources, with the production and distribution of wealth. The second concerns itself primarily with the human being, with the education and proper development of the normal human being, and with the care, custody, protection, maintenance, or restraint of the human being under abnormal conditions. This humanitarian branch of legislation is what has particularly distinguished California during the past sixteen years. Throughout most of that period we have been carrying out a program of humane and social legislation in which we have a right to feel genuine pride. We need only point to the eight-hour law for women; to the regulation of child labor; to the assurance of fair and honest treatment for the man who toils; to improved conditions in our institutions for the sick and afflicted; to our provisions for orphans’ aid?the most generous of any State in the Union; to the workmen’s compensation act, whereby the burden of industrial accident is removed from the shoulders of him who is least able to bear it, and made the responsibility of society as a whole; to many other similar measures, designed to make brighter the lot of the underprivileged human being. These measures have gradually won their way into public confidence until they are now regarded with approval by all our citizens.
Not only in its humanitarian and social endeavors, but also in its educational progress, California has maintained a place of leadership. Our schools are ranked by those competent to judge as the best in the Union. Our teachers, particularly those in rural communities, are better paid than teachers in other states. Our teacher-training institutions are rated extremely high and are growing better every year. Our university is excelled by none, and a statewide system of junior colleges is springing up by which the first two years of university work are made accessible to almost every community. More than a third of our entire State expenditures is devoted to education.
There are, however, certain parts of our educational machinery that need adjustment. There have arisen conflicts, growing out of a certain duplication of authority between the State Board of Education, on the one hand, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, on the other. It would seem wise to so modify our laws affecting the administration of our school system that the functions of the Board of Education shall be more clearly defined, and that the State Superintendent shall have entire responsibility for the educational conduct of the schools, and for the appointment of his professional assistants.
I am looking forward with especially pleasant anticipations to my association as Governor with you who make up the two houses of the Legislature. For ten years I served as Assemblyman in this chamber, six of them as presiding officer behind this desk. For eight years I have been privileged to preside over the Senate in the opposite wing of the Capitol. As a result of this experience, I believe I am rather uniquely able to understand and appreciate your problems. I want you to know of my sincere desire to aid you and cooperate with you in every possible way.
As one who from long experience is familiar with legislative procedure, may I be privileged to make a few definite suggestions? I trust that this session may be distinguished by a very small quantity of legislation, partly because we must admit that much proposed legislation is always really unnecessary, and partly because the smaller the number of bills, the greater the time for considering each, and the better the final result. Especially do I suggest to you a greater sense of legislative responsibility than has characterized some of your predecessors in past years. You and I are all too familiar with the process of passing hasty and ill-considered legislation down to the Governor’s office, with the comfortable feeling that it will be rejected if considered unwise. Thus the Governor by his vetoes, instead of merely being used to correct inadvertent errors, or to negative major policies with which he can not agree, is forced to become a very important part of the Legislature?a function which was never contemplated by the constitution.
I also trust that something may be done this year to make impossible the introduction of so-called “skeleton bills.” The constitutional provision creating a legislative recess contemplated that each bill, at least as far as the intent and best judgment of the author is concerned, should be in its final form from the moment it is first submitted. Otherwise a public study of bills during the month of recess would mean nothing. Moreover, the constitution also provides that after this legislative recess only two bills may be introduced by any member. If, however, there are skeleton bills, or bills otherwise essentially modified by author’s amendments, and which assume their really intended form after this recess, this provision of the constitution is virtually nullified. It is accordingly obvious that the legislation which will be most sure of approval, both by the public and by the Governor’s office, will be that which is carefully drafted before its introduction, and is passed through the Legislature before that grand final rush which renders careful consideration so impossible.
Before I close I wish to pay my tribute to the splendid spirit and conscientious endeavors of our California Legislatures. I have never been happier than in my work with them, as presiding officer of one or the other of the two houses. To you, who were my friends and coworkers in former Legislatures, and to my new friends who are here for the first time, I wish to extend my greeting, and to express the hope that every one of you will realize how welcome you are on all occasions to lay your problems before me. I was a member of the Legislature a long, long time before I ever thought of becoming part of what we legislators always referred to as “the corner office downstairs.”
You and I have a splendid task before us. We have gone a long way forward in California?gone forward inspired by the hearty approval of a people whose heart is fundamentally sound, whose ideals are fundamentally high. In fairness to that people, there must be no backward step. We must hold all the ground we have gained in the past. We must press on to new achievements for the future. We must keep pace with the growth of a growing world.
Just one thing more: I am happy to believe that we are entering upon an era of good feeling in California, with the vast majority of our citizens wishing well for the success of this new administration which we are inaugurating here today. Since being elected to the office I am about to assume I have received most courteous treatment from the outgoing administration and its friends, and I trust that I have reciprocated in kind. Life is too short to make it worth while to prolong the echoes of preelection battles. I enter upon my new duties with a very full sense of the responsibilities which will be mine, and I propose to do my utmost to meet those responsibilities in a manner which shall be worthy of this high office. And in all my efforts toward this end, the generous good-will of you, my friends, will be my constant encouragement and support.