Last night I was reading some of my past statements and to tell you the truth, I didn't find them all that impressive. So this morning, I'm going to share with you some of my thoughts for the coming year.
Obviously, number one on the agenda is property tax. It's the issue people have been talking about. We need an immediate solution. We also need a long term solution. And I propose out of the savings that we have been able to make out of the prudent fiscal policy of this state that we make available something under half a billion dollars for property tax relief, and we direct that to the people that are most in need, that are hardest hit. We base it on income so that those people with the highest property tax and the lowest and most moderate income receive the greatest amount of assistance. It's targeting to those hardest hit, those most in need And we take this half a billion dollars and we take the principle amount of that sum and we make it available to the homeowner.
With respect to renters' relief, we take some of that same money and we make it available to those we really need it the most, those who find it very difficult to cope with rising costs and prices – our senior citizens. And we provide a renter relief program comparable to the property tax relief program. And in that fashion we take the half a billion dollars and we divide it up in a manner after discussions between yourselves and the Executive Branch, to do it in the most equitable and fair way.
We have run a tight budget. We have the resources and without new taxes we can provide significant immediate relief to the homeowners of California. Then for the long term, we have to do two essential changes in our law.
First of all, we need a statutory limit not only on the property tax rate, which you did in prior years, but on the assessments so that the homeowners will not face the escalating assessments, along with the rates, that they have in the last few years. We have to find a program that will do the job not just for this year and next year, but over the long term. And we can do that by imposing on local government a statutory limit that will allow reasonable growth based on population changes and personal income.
And then secondly we need to have and present to the people a constitutional amendment to split the tax roll to ensure that the proportion of taxes paid business property and the homeowner remain the same as they are today. As it is, the escalating assessments are putting more and more property of the property tax burden on the homeowner, and that has to be stopped and it can be by freezing into the Constitution the ratio by which business and homeowners now contribute to the property tax burden.
Number two, Serrano. It's been with us a long time. The court has already discussed it for many years. We now have our marching orders. Instead of shirking it or letting it slide for a few more years, I propose we deal with it along with property tax this year. We have the resources. We have the revenue base, again without new taxes, without a statewide property tax, without destroying local home rule or control, to provide a response to the court mandate that substantially complies with the principle of equal funding. And as we make this money available, which will exceed a billion dollars over the next five years, I propose that we do so in an integrated ways so that we restructure our educational program to achieve competency, to achieve equity and fairness and make sure that we attend to the special needs of the s students and the special problems off various parts of the state that have unique problems.
We can meet that mandate. We can bring substantially all the school children in California – not all of them, but a substantial number – to comply with the Serrano mandate, and we can do it this year, so that over a period of the next five years we provide a reasonable solution to what has been a very troublesome problem, and I suggest that we do so together as we work out the property tax problem.
Number three, conservation. We're facing the prospect of a very serious drought. Last year we had the third worst drought in the history of this state. Only 1934 and 1924 were worse. This year, if predictions bear out, may even be more difficult. Two dry years. The Shasta Dam, which is 25 percent filled, the rainfall has been about 10 percent of normal. At a time when our dams and reservoirs should be filling up they are emptying out and the rainfall is far below what it should be.
We are going to require conservation measures; in some places rationing. We are going to have to learn to share north and south, all of us together. It is the only way we can solve this problem. It is the only way we can solve all of them.
Along with the water we have to face difficult problem of natural gas. We have to find a place for liquefied natural gas to replace the diminishing supply that we're now facing here in California. In addition to that we ought to look for specific ways of insulating our homes and finding other manner of conservation.
Quality of life is something that we all talk about. And I think of all the great things that are done in this state, both in government and without. The tremendous prosperity that we have had – tremendous economic growth. And along with that prosperity some other things have occurred. I suppose to every plus there has to be a minus. To every step forward there is a step backward. And in the onward rush of our competitive economic struggle there are many that miss out, that fall by the wayside. There are thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, who find themselves in the back waters of society, who fill our mental hospitals, our nursing homes, and to those people and to many others that are afflicted with problems of alcoholism and narcotic addiction and other things, you and I have to provide programs, resources. But along with that, I can't do the job in this chamber. We can't do it in this city. There is just too much. The scope of human need in this state is beyond the thousand laws that will pass this year. It is beyond whatever program that we can fashion. It is not to say that we don't have to try, that don't have to continuously rededicate ourselves to new programs. We will. We have in the last two years, but I want to involve more people.
Volunteerism is something that has been a great mark in our history. We had it during the war. We had it in years past. I want to begin it again. We will start with mental hospitals. If it's successful there, we can expand it. I don't think our problem has been that we have asked too much of people. I personally think we haven't asked enough. There are a lot of people who have got the time, the energy, the experience, the compassion to share it with others if we create the framework, the training and the opportunity. And I think we can do that.
Finally, I'll talk about a subject that is like taxes, always with us, crime. As our neighborhoods become more anonymous, as there is more mobility in our society, we find that the social norms are not as observed as they have been in prior years. We have passed some tough laws in the last two years. We still have a long way to go. Our court system is cumbersome. Our criminal procedure is archaic. We are going to have to reform it because justice that is not swift, that is not certain, is no justice at all. It is no deterrent. We often talk about punishment that is swift and certain, but in reality it takes court procedures that are workable, that consolidate motions and ensure the people who commit crime know there is a price to pay. And unfortunately in our society there are some people that have to be locked up for a long, long time. For that reason I am going to propose that for those who commit capital crimes that life without the possibility of parole be the sanction available to juries in our state.
That leaves us one other question. The Supreme Court has recently stuck down the death penalty in this state. This is something that I thought about for a long time. My position is very clear on this subject. I respect each one of you. I respect the judgment of the people, but as you begin your deliberations I feel it incumbent upon me to share with you what I believe. And for me this is a matter of conscience – I feel that way, and if a bill should come to my desk, I will return it without my signature.
Thanks you very much.