Address of Governor Ronald Reagan to California Republican Assembly

Lafayette Hotel, Long Beach

April 1, 1967

 

It is a pleasure to be here tonight,, talking again to the members of the California Republican Assembly, California’s oldest volunteer Republican organization.

 

I have that warm feeling a person gets when he knows he’s among friends – friends who think like he does and have the same goals and aspirations.  Could be I’m especially conscious of this for the same reason a man only realizes how thirsty he really is when he takes a cooling drink.  Besides that, the members of the CRA have always put their money and their energies where a lot of people are content merely to put their mouths.  And, believe me, that is appreciated.

 

You have supported and worked actively and hard for the principles in which we believe and the candidates who represent those principles – Republican candidates and principles, if you will.

 

It is the work and support given by you and the members of the other Republican volunteer groups which, in large measure, were responsible for our party’s success last November.

 

I, for one, am grateful, and I know that that gratitude is shared by many others – winners and losers – who had your help.

 

That election has California again on the right road – in the interest of harmony, let me hasten to say I use “right” in the sense of meaning “correct” – not the road back, but the road ahead to a better, more responsible, more meaningful life for all our citizens, a life in which they are allowed to develop and pursue their aims and ambitions to the fullest, without the constant interference and domination of big spending, big brother government.

 

But we have just started down that new road.  There is still much to be done and there are many problems yet to be solved.

 

We have just begun to put our State house in order.  And every move we make brings a fresh protest from those who think that your money and mine is theirs to spend – as they see fit.

 

We intend to put an end to that kind of thinking – an end to the philosophy that government has a right to match taxes to whatever it wants to spend instead of spening only what needs to be spent.

 

During the campaign it looked almost as if we could put our fiscal house in order without resorting to new taxes.  We did not know just how bad the situation was then.  Now we have had access to, and a chance to read, the fine print.

As a result, we have, as you know, submitted a revenue bill of nearly one billion dollars in increased taxes.  Because there has been some editorial jumping-up-and-down-with-glee, holding that this makes a failure in our long-held belief in economy, let’s set the record straight here and now.

 

Roughly half of that tax increase is necessary simply to pay off this year’s deficit and put us on a pay-as-you-go basis.  Half of the remainder is not a new tax so much as a broader based substitute tax to give, for the first time, direct property tax relief.  Next year, with the deficit paid off, that relief can be more than doubled.

 

The remainder – about one-quarter of the total tax revenues – is for the normal increase to keep pace with population growth and increased prices and wages resulting from the Federal government’s policy of planned inflation.  This increase is about 7%, in contrast with the 16% increase of the past year and the 12% average increase over the last eight years.

 

We tried for some $250 million in economies in the budgets requested by all the divisions of government.  We ended up with more that $127 million.  I’m just stubborn enough to think we got the $127 million because we tried for $250 million and we will continue to follow that policy.

 

Incidentally, one of the most heartening signs we have had in this brief administration is the recent poll which indicates most of our citizens favor our revenue package and, of those who favor it, 70% do so because they see the need to balance the budget.

 

Perhaps the Federal government could take note of this.

 

But our aims go far beyond this.  We do not intend to balance future budgets by increasing taxes.  Instead, we intend to balance them by making government more economical, by streamlining it.  Like this year, next year – and the years following – will be years where we do not intend to spend one dollar more than necessary of the people’s money to conduct the people’s business.

 

Let me digress for a moment.  During the campaign, I became a kind of Johnny-One-Note on the subject of government of, and by, the people – of building what I called a Creative Society by turning to the great power of the people instead of always creating additional bureaucracy.  There did not seem to be much of a quarrel with this idea.  In fact, once or twice I had to talk pretty loudly when it looked as if the opposition had claimed squatters rights on the idea and was making more noise about it than I was.  They even appointed a few citizens’ commission late in the campaign which, we hope, will surface one of these days for re-fueling.

 

But some who listened and endorsed before November 8th were pretty horrified to discover the campaign blossoms were bearing fruit.  Somehow they remind me of an incident which occurred early in World War II.

 

A shipload of canned fish was interned in an Italian port and, when finally released for sale, the cargo brought $25,000.  It was then resold for $50,000 and, as the war years went on, that shipment of canned fish kept changing hands until,, finally, it brought $600,000.

 

The last purchaser opened a can and tried the fish.  Enraged, he got on the phone and demanded that something be done because the fish was spoiled.  And he was told by the man who sold it to him, “But the fish isn’t for eating; it’s for selling!”

 

Well, our fish is for eating.

 

You would think that, when government can get things done without adding to the burden of the taxpayers, everyone would be happy.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Some reactionaries still think the only way to get things done is to soak the taxpayer – that, somehow, it isn’t legal unless it’s compulsory.

 

In pointing up the potential of a Creative Society during the campaign, attention was called to the cooperation between certain government agencies and private industry which resulted in 17,800 jobs for unemployed from the Watts curfew area in a 16-month period.  These jobs were in private industry and two-thirds of them are still filled.  Of the other one-third, half moved on to better jobs.  The man who spearheaded this is Mr. H. C. McClellan and he is at work now setting up a similar program on a statewide basis at no expense to the taxpayers.  A Congressman from the area that benefited most – motivated either by partisanship or a philosophical refusal to approve of private industry – has attacked this program on the basis that only government jobs and tax money should help the unemployed.

 

We have, as you know, a task force of 150 industrial and business executives – the best and most successful in the state – who will be working as full-time volunteers for the next several months.  These men are bringing their special knowledge, skill and experience to bear on the structure of State government.  They will go into every department and agency of the State to see how efficiency can be improved and costs cut.  In short, they will tell us how we can bring modern business practices to government agencies.  This study, incidentally, will cost the taxpayers only a few thousand dollars; the direct costs of it are being underwritten by public-spirited members of business and industry.

 

Strangely enough, at least one metropolitan paper finds something sinister in private citizens wanting to help out.  The same paper can editorialize itself into a state of euphoria about the civic duty of citizens to contribute to Community Chest, an art museum or a music center … but, if those same citizens want to help the government under which they live, they must have ulterior motives.  Of course that is right, if a desire for better government can be termed an ulterior motive.

 

The fish is for eating.  We have called on our fellow citizens to take time out from their own careers and business activities to man the administrative posts of government.  Nothing has ever made me so proud as their response.  No state government has ever recruited manpower to match ours.  We have found men to match our mountains.

 

Other citizens will soon be embarked on a totally study of our tax structure.

 

We have probably the most beautiful capitol of any of the states and soon we will have a new residence for California’s governors in keeping with our California heritage.  This too will be provided by the people voluntarily.  A bipartisan group has formed a non-profit corporation to build, in the city of Sacramento, a dwelling to be donated to the State of California for use as an official residence for the governors.  Gifts of not more than $500 and not less than $1 will be solicited on a broad statewide basis.  Yet, even this has been distorted to appear as if a small band of so-called “fat cats” are doing something undercover and not quite nice.

 

Fortunately, the members of CRA [California Republican Assembly], like most of our private citizens, do not follow this line of thinking.  We have been brought together by a belief that one of our problems is too much government and too much compulsion … that we, as citizens, have right to participate in our government in ways other than just paying taxes, running for office or seeking appointments.

 

But suddenly some, who apparently shared this concept prior to November 8th, are opposed to the practice of that concept.  Suddenly, the concept of economy in government has also become wrong to some, especially to some whose particular pet oxen have been gored by some of the proposed economies.

 

Now our economies are not aimed at eliminating needed services or programs.  But they are aimed at trimming far and waste, at cutting out the frills, at keeping government to the size where it remains the servant, and does not become the master, of the people.

 

And they are aimed at reducing the tax burden on the people.  You have read some of the things we are doing, and have heard the outcry of the wounded.  $5 million has been saved by cutting down on out-of-state travel by public servants who like to roam … $20 million a year saved by cutting out unneeded workers in some of our institutions where the number of patients has dwindled by 40% but where, until now, there has been no reduction in the numbers of employees.

 

Other millions are being saved because we have been able to persuade our colleges and universities to face up to the fact that as public institutions they have a public responsibility not to spend beyond the public’s means.

 

Now none of this should have surprised anyone, for just as we promised to bring government back to the people, so did we also promise to bring the frugality and thrift back to government.

 

But we are also promised to do this without hurting the truly needy and the truly deserving.  That is why the extra funds for the crippled children’s programs were approved … why money was left in the budget for needed salary increases … why extra funds to help teachers who retired on inadequate pensions and who have not had the raise needed to combat inflation were provided … why the State employment office has been instructed to make special efforts to find jobs for those State employees laid off through no fault of their own.

 

There were a few more promises, such as to take steps to cut California’s soaring crime rate.  Well, an anti-crime legislative package instituted by this administration has already received preliminary approval in the Legislature.

 

And something was said about eliminating government by hacks and cronies and relatives – my only bother hasn’t even asked for a job.

 

An issue discussed in the campaign was taking the appointment of judges out of politics.  While waiting for the Legislature to act in this area, we have set up special screening committees composed of representatives of the bar associations, the presiding judges of the various judicial districts and lay representatives to insure that only qualified attorneys are picked as judges.  To date, we have selected only the number one recommendation for each judgeship.

 

In addition to proposed legislation that will take away the compulsory aspects of the school district unification law and other laws that have foisted costly programs on school districts without providing the funds for their financing, we have made a start toward restoring the 50-50 State and local financing of schools.

 

We are also moving forward on our agriculture program and on programs aimed at improving the business climate and at conserving our land, air, water and oceanographic resources.

 

Do not be fooled by the special interest propagandists.  We will maintain our redwood forests, but we will not give them to the Federal government without getting something of equal value in return, and we will not act in such a way as to endanger the economy of northwestern California counties.

 

We will make provision for maintaining our wilderness areas, but we will not blindly set aside huge tracts so they cannot be used to meet the recreational and industrial needs of our expanding population.

 

We will press ahead on our State water program, but we will also cooperate in the fresh water program of the future – desalinization.

 

We will work to keep industry in California and to entice more industry here, but we will also work to diversify industry and to build new industries in new fields such as those offered by the ocean, so that California will not continue to be so heavily dependent on defense and other government contracts.

 

We will work to make and keep California number one … not only number one in terms of growth and economy, but also number one in terms of the kind of government that best suits a free people – a government oriented to their needs, but also a government oriented to their rights and their responsibilities.

 

We will work also to make the state an effective bulwark between the people and an ever-encroaching Federal government.  That government is best which remains closest to the people, but almost daily the Goliath that is the Federal government moves to gather more power unto itself and to minimize the functions of both the Congress and the states.

 

In recent weeks, the Secretary of Labor has set discriminatory minimum farm wages - $1.50 in California … as low as $1.00 elsewhere.  Yet, California farmers are expected to compete under this differential on the national market despite the additional high cost of shipping produce from the West Coast.

 

Only two weeks ago, the President called the governors together to tell them the Federal government wished to work more closely with the states in distributing Federal monies and Federal programs.

 

This was obviously an attempt to minimize efforts in the Congress to provide string-free money to the states.  If Congress were to take this action, only Congress could repeal it.  But what the White House gives, the White House can take away without regard to the Congress or the states.

 

While Cabinet officials were making promises to governors, lower echelon officials were disclosing plans by the Federal government to bypass Sacramento in setting up new job programs and the Interior Department was going ahead with its efforts to make Imperial Valley farmers adhere to the outmoded 160-acre limitation.

 

It is not enough for our Senators and Representatives to seek to pass legislation involving the several states, they must also work to insure that legislation does not infringe on the rights of the individual states and they must be wary lest they trade those rights for the Federal dollar, which after all, is merely what is left of the citizen’s dollar after it has been strained through the Washington bureaucracy.

 

I have met with our Congressman, on both sides of the aisle; I have talked with both our Senators.  I have assured all of them that the administration in Sacramento will work with them and cooperate with them wherever the interests of the State are involved.

 

And I have urged them to guard carefully those interests against the encroachments of the Federal government.  There is little use in saving our freedom at the local and State levels if we lose it on the national level.

 

When we first suggested tuition for the University and College systems, one of the University chancellors in a rash moment cried out that he would not preside over the dissolution of a great University.  I join him that.  But at the same time I have no intention of presiding over the dissolution of a great state.  Our aim – yours and mine and our party’s – is, instead, to build an even greater State.

 

As I said earlier tonight, it is the volunteer Republican organizations such as the CRA that have provided so many of the workers and so much of the enthusiasm and support for our party in California.

 

All of us, including myself, have much to be grateful to you for.  We could not have won without you last November, nor will we know victory in 1968 without your wholehearted and undivided support.

 

But do we want to be like the nostalgic old grad who lives in the fading memory of one championship team, or do we look ahead and anticipate successive new victories?

 

If we are going to live in the past – just remember, that past includes bitter defeats between 1958 and 1964.  We could not have won with you if we had stooped to the intra-party warfare that characterized our years of defeat.

 

We have not won a war, or even complete victory in a battle.  We stopped our opponent’s advance and halted our own retreat.  We cannot hold the present gains unless we move forward.  Let me remind you: we did not win control of the Assembly; we did not win control of the Senate; we did not wil the office of the Attorney General even though we had good candidates and good organization.

 

The 11th Commandment kept our party unified; but we were, and still are, a minority party.  There is still much to be done in party building, in convincing independents and members of the opposing party that the course we chart leads to fiscal sanity, strong local government and individual rights and responsibilities.

 

Maybe there once was a time when our two-party system was less a difference in philosophy than a contest between partisans loyal to the old school tie, but no more.  Last November, millions of people voted to change, or at least pause to review, the philosophy of the party leadership now in power.  They did not just decide to change hats and join the other club for a while.

 

Fortunately for those millions of concerned citizens, we too had paused to take inventory.  We discovered we could no longer afford the luxury of internal fighting, backbiting and throat-cutting.  We discovered our philosophical difference with those presently in power was greater than any grudge or split within our own ranks.  Were ready and in position to offer an alternative for those concerned citizens who wanted to join with others, not to win a contest, but to preserve a way of life.

 

We must keep the door open – offering our party as the only practical answer for those who, overall, are individualists.  And because this is the great common denominator – this dedication to the belief in man’s aspirations as an individual – we cannot offer them a narrow sectarian party in which all must swear allegiance to prescribed commandments.

 

Such a party can be highly disciplined, but it does not win elections.  This kind of party soon disappears in a blaze of glorious defeat, and it never puts into practice its basic tenets, no matter how noble they may be.

 

The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party.  There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths.  Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency.

 

In our tent will be found those who believe that government was created by “We, the People;” that government exists for the convenience of the people and we can give to government no power we do not possess as individuals;  that the citizen does not earn to support the government, but supports a government so that he may be free to earn; that, because there can be no freedom without law and order, every act of government must be approved if it makes freedom more secure and disapproved if it offers security instead of freedom.

 

Within our tent, there will be many arguments and divisions over approach and method and even those we choose to implement our philosophy.  Seldom, if ever, will we raise a cheer signifying unanimous approval of the decisions reached.  But if our philosophy is to prevail, we must at least pledge unified support of the ultimate decision.  Unity does not require unanimity of thought.

 

And here is the challenge to you.  It is the duty and responsibility of the volunteer Republican organizations, not to further divide, but to lead the way to unity.  It is not your duty, responsibility of privilege to tear down, or attempt to destroy, others in the tent.  As duly chartered Republican organizations, we can all advance our particular sectarianism or brand of candidates for the party to pass on openly and freely in a primary election.

 

But, as volunteer organizations, we must always remain in a position that will let us effectively support the candidates chosen by the entire party in a primary.  To do less is a disservice to the party and, more importantly, to the cause in which we all believe.

 

Our 11th Commandment is perhaps more profound than we realize.  “Thou shall not speak ill of any Republican.”  To do so means we are inhibited in the support we can give that Republican if he should become the nominee of our party.  Certainly our task is harder if we must challenge and refute charges made by our opponents if those charges were first uttered by us.

 

It is my belief that, as Governor, I should neither endorse a primary candidate nor involve myself behind the scenes in primary campaigning.  To do so is a misuse of the office with which I have been entrusted.  When the primary is over, I believe I have a commitment – a contract if you will – to wholeheartedly support every candidate chosen by the party.

 

You, on the other hand, as individuals and as an organization, should be so involved.  You, by your membership in a volunteer group, have proven you are activists – leaders in furthering the philosophy which brings us together.  You must, therefore, be leaders in setting campaign standards – ready to endorse the party choice – just as ready to repudiate any candidate of campaign which refuses to abide by those standards.

 

Fight as hard in the coming primary as you can for your candidate, but be against only those we must defeat in November of 1968.  Let no opposition candidate quote your words in the general election to advance statism or the philosophy of those who have lost confidence in man’s capacity for self-rule.

 

Just a year ago, we were a party almost totally without power.  The two-party system existed only in theory.  Out of sheer necessity, we achieved unity and victory.  With that victory, we bought time – time to rally our forces for what may be our last chance.

 

As a result of our victory, we stated something in this State.  We are being watched … watched by those all across this land who once again dare to believe that our concept of responsible, people-oriented government can work as the founding fathers meant it to work.  If we prove that here, we can, as I have said before, start a prairie fire that can sweep across this country.

 

But to start that fire, we must nurture the flame here at home or it will flicker and die and those who come after us will find only the ashes of lost hopes and dead dreams.