Reagan's first inaugural address as governor of California
January 5, 1967
In 1966, Reagan beat two-time Democratic incumbent Pat Brown to become governor of California, an office he would hold for two terms, until 1975. In his first inaugural address, Governor Reagan focused on budgetary concerns, promising to resolve the state's financial problems.
To a number of us, this is a first and hence a solemn and momentous
occasion, and yet, on the broad page of state and national history, what
is taking place here is almost commonplace routine. We are participating
in the orderly transfer of administrative authority by direction of the
people. And this is the simple magic which makes a commonplace routine a
near miracle to many of the world's inhabitants: the continuing fact that
the people, by democratic process, can delegate this power, yet retain
custody of it.
Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be
properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than
one generation away from extinction, It is not ours by inheritance; it
must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it
comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it
have never known it again. Knowing this, it is hard to explain those who
even today would question the people's capacity for self-rule. Will they
answer this: if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who
among us has the capacity to govern someone else? Using the temporary
authority granted by the people, an increasing number lately have sought
to control the means of production, as if this could be done without
eventually controlling those who produce. Always this is explained as
necessary to the people's welfare. But, "The deterioration of every
government begins with the decay of the principle upon which it was
founded" [Montesquieu]. This is as true today as it was when it was
written in 1748.
Government is the people's business, and every man,
woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid.
With all the profound wording of the Constitution, probably the most
meaningful words are the first three: "We, the People." Those of us here
today who have been elected to constitutional office or legislative
position are in that three-word phrase. We are of the people, chosen by
them to see that no permanent structure of government ever encroaches on
freedom or assumes a power beyond that freely granted by the people. We
stand between the taxpayer and the taxspender.
It is inconceivable to me that anyone could accept this delegated
authority without asking God's help. I pray that we who legislate and
administer will be granted wisdom and strength beyond our own limited
power; that with Divine guidance we can avoid easy expedients, as we work
to build a state where liberty under law and justice can triumph, where
compassion can govern, and wherein the people can participate and prosper
because of their government and not in spite of it.
The path we will chart is not an easy one. It demands much of those
chosen to govern, but also from those who did the choosing. And let there
be no mistake about this: We have come to a crossroad a time of decision
and the path we follow turns away from any idea that government and those
who serve it are omnipotent. It is a path impossible to follow unless we
have faith in the collective wisdom and genius of the people. Along this
path government will lead but not rule, listen but not lecture. It is the
path of a Creative Society.
A number of problems were discussed during the campaign, and I see
no reason to change the subject now. Campaign oratory on the issues of
crime, pollution of air and water, conservation, welfare, and expanded
educational facilities does not mean the issues will go away because the
campaign has ended. Problems remain to be solved and they challenge all of
us. Government will lead, of course, but the answer must come from all of
We will make specific proposals and we will solicit other ideas. In
the area of crime, where we have double our proportionate share, we will
propose legislation to give back to local communities the right to pass
and enforce ordinances which will enable the police to more adequately
protect these communities. Legislation already drafted will be submitted,
calling upon the Legislature clearly to state in the future whether
newly-adopted laws are intended to preempt the right of local governments
to legislate in the same field. Hopefully, this will free judges from
having to guess the intent of those who passed the legislation in the
At the same time, I pledge my support and fullest effort to a plan
which will remove from politics, once and for all, the appointment of
judges . . . not that I believe I'll be overburdened with making judicial
appointments in the immediate future.
Just as we assume a responsibility to guard our young people up to
a certain age from the possible harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco, so
do I believe we have a right and a responsibility to protect them from the
even more harmful effects of exposure to smut and pornography. We can and
must frame legislation that will accomplish this purpose without
endangering freedom of speech and the press.
When fiscally feasible, we hope to create a California crime
technological foundation utilizing both public and private resources in a
major effort to employ the most scientific techniques to control crime. At
such a time, we should explore the idea of a state police academy to
assure that police from even the smallest communities can have the most
advanced training. We lead the nation in many things; we are going to stop
leading in crime. Californians should be able to walk our streets safely
day or night. The law abiding are entitled to at least as much protection
as the law-breakers.
While on the subject of crime . . . those with a grievance can seek
redress in the courts or legislature, but not in the streets. Lawlessness
by the mob, as with the individual, will not be tolerated. We will act
firmly and quickly to put down riot or insurrection wherever and whenever
the situation requires.
Welfare is another of our major problems. We are a humane and
generous people and we accept without reservation our obligation to help
the aged, disabled, and those unfortunates who, through no fault of their
own, must depend on their fellow man. But we are not going to perpetuate
poverty by substituting a permanent dole for a paycheck. There is no
humanity or charity in destroying self-reliance, dignity, and self-respect
... the very substance of moral fiber.
We seek reforms that will, wherever possible, change relief check
to paycheck. Spencer Williams, Administrator of Health and Welfare, is
assessing the amount of work that could be done in public installations by
welfare recipients. This is not being done in any punitive sense, but as a
beginning step in rehabilitation to give the individual the self-respect
that goes with performing a useful service.
But this is not the ultimate answer. Only private industry in the
last analysis can provide jobs with a future. Lieutenant Governor Robert
Finch will be liaison between government and the private sector in an
all-out program of job training and education leading to real employment.
A truly great citizen of our state and a fine American, Mr. H.C.
McClellan, has agreed to institute a statewide program patterned after the
one he directed so successfully in the "curfew area" of Los Angeles.
There, in the year and a half since the tragic riots, fully half of the
unemployed have been channeled into productive jobs in private industry,
and more than 2,600 businesses are involved. Mr. McClellan will be serving
without pay and the entire statewide program will be privately financed.
While it will be directed at all who lack opportunity, it offers hope
especially to those minorities who have a disproportionate share of
poverty and unemployment.
In the whole area of welfare, everything will be done to reduce
administrative overhead, cut red tape, and return control as much as
possible to the county level. And the goal will be investment in, and
salvage of, human beings.
This Administration will cooperate with the State Superintendent of
Public Instruction in his expressed desires to return more control of
curriculum and selection of textbooks to local school districts. We will
support his efforts to make recruitment of out-of-state teachers less
In the subject of education... hundreds of thousands of young men
and women will receive an education in our state colleges and
universities. We are proud of our ability to provide this opportunity for
our youth and we believe it is no denial of academic freedom to provide
this education within a framework of reasonable rules and regulations. Nor
is it a violation of individual rights to require obedience to these rules
and regulations or to insist that those unwilling to abide by them should
get their education elsewhere.
It does not constitute political interference with intellectual
freedom for the taxpaying citizens who support the college and university
systems to ask that, in addition to teaching, they build character on
accepted moral and ethical standards.
Just as a man is entitled to a voice in government, so he should
certainly have that right in the very personal matter of earning a living.
I have always supported the principle of the union shop, even though that
includes a certain amount of compulsion with regard to union membership.
For that reason it seems to me that government must accept a
responsibility for safeguarding each union member's democratic rights
within his union. For that reason we will submit legislative proposals to
guarantee each union member a secret ballot in his union on policy matters
and the use of union dues.
There is also need for a mediation service in labor management
disputes not covered by existing law. There are improvements to be made in
workmen's compensation in death benefits and benefits to the permanently
disabled. At the same time, a tightening of procedures is needed to free
business from some unjust burdens.
A close liaison with our congressional representatives in
Washington, both Democratic and Republican, is needed so that we can help
bring about beneficial changes in Social Security, secure less restrictive
controls on federal grants, and work for a tax retention plan that will
keep some of our federal taxes here for our use with no strings attached.
We should strive also to get tax credits for our people to help defray the
cost of sending their children to college.
We will support a bipartisan effort to lift the archaic 160- acre
limitation imposed by the federal government on irrigated farms.
Restrictive labor policies should never again be the cause of crops
rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.
Here in our own Capitol, we will seek solutions to the problems of
unrealistic taxes which threaten economic ruin to our biggest industry. We
will work with the farmer as we will with business, industry, and labor to
provide a better business climate so that they may prosper and we all may
There are other problems and possible problems facing us. one such
is now pending before the United States Supreme Court. I believe it would
be inappropriate to discuss that matter now. We will, however, be prepared
with remedial legislation we devoutly hope will be satisfactory to all of
our citizens if court rulings make this necessary.
This is only a partial accounting of our problems and our dreams
for the future. California, with its climate, its resources, and its
wealth of young, aggressive, talented people, must never take second
place. We can provide jobs for all our people who will work, and we can
have honest government at a price we can afford. Indeed, unless we
accomplish this, our problems will go unsolved, our dreams unfulfilled and
we will know the taste of ashes.
I have put off until last what is by no means least among our
problems. Our fiscal situation has a sorry similarity to the situation of
a jetliner out over the North Atlantic, Paris-bound. The pilot announced
he had news some good, some bad and he would give the bad news first. They
had lost radio contact; their compass and altimeter were not working;
they didn't know their altitude, direction or where they were headed. Then
he gave the good news they had a 100-mile-an-hour tail-wind and they were
ahead of schedule.
Our fiscal year began July 1st and will end on the coming June 30th
six months from now. The present budget for this twelve-month period is
$4.6 billion, an all-time high for any of the fifty states. When this
budget was presented, it was admittedly in excess of the estimated tax
revenues for the year. It was adopted with the assurance that a change in
bookkeeping procedures would solve this imbalance.
With half the year gone, and faced now with the job of planning
next year's budget, we have an estimate provided by the experienced
personnel of the Department of Finance. We have also an explanation of how
a change in bookkeeping could seemingly balance a budget that called for
spending $400 million more than we would take in.
Very simply, it was just another one-time windfall a gimmick that
solved nothing but only postponed the day of reckoning. We are financing
the twelve-month spending with fifteen-month income. All the tax revenues
for the first quarter of next year July, August, and September will be
used to finance this year's expenses up to June 30th. And incidentally,
even that isn't enough, because we will still have a deficit of some $63
Now, with the budget established at its present level, we are told
that it, of course, must be increased next year to meet the added problems
of population growth and inflation. But the magic of the changed
bookkeeping is all used up. We are back to only twelve months' income for
twelve months' spending. Almost automatically we are being advised of all
the new and increased taxes which, if adopted, will solve the problem.
Curiously enough, another one-time windfall is being urged. If we switch
to withholding of personal income tax, we will collect two years' taxes
the first year and postpone our moment of truth perhaps until everyone
forgets we did not cause the problem we only inherited it. Or maybe we are
to stall, hoping a rich uncle will remember us in his will.
If we accept the present budget as absolutely necessary and add on
projected increases plus funding for property tax relief (which I believe
is absolutely essential and for which we are preparing a detailed and
comprehensive program), our deficit in the coming year would reach
three-quarters of a billion dollars.
But Californians are already burdened with combined state and local
taxes $113 per capita higher than the national average. Our property tax
contributes to a slump in the real estate and building trades industries
and makes it well-nigh impossible for many citizens to continue owning
their own homes.
For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and
told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond
Well the truth is, there are simple answers they just are not easy
ones. The time has come for us to decide whether collectively we can
afford everything and anything we think of simply because we think of it.
The time has come to run a check to see if all the services government
provides were in answer to demands or were just goodies dreamed up for our
supposed betterment. The time has come to match outgo to income, instead
of always doing it the other way around.
The cost of California's government is too high; it adversely
affects our business climate. We have a phenomenal growth with hundreds of
thousands of people joining us each year. Of course, the overall cost of
government must go up to provide necessary services for these newcomers,
but growth should mean increased prosperity and thus a lightening of the
load each individual must bear. If this isn't true, then you and I should
be planning how we can put up a fence along the Colorado River and seal
Well, we aren't going to do that. We are going to squeeze and cut
and trim until we reduce the cost of government. It won't be easy, nor
will it be pleasant, and it will involve every department of government,
starting with the Governor's office. I have already informed the
legislature of the reorganization we hope to effect with their help in the
executive branch and I have asked for their cooperation and support.
The new Director of Finance is in complete agreement that we turn
to additional sources of revenue only if it becomes clear that economies
alone cannot balance the budget.
Disraeli said: "Man is not a creature of circumstances.
Circumstances are the creatures of men." you and I will shape our
circumstances to fit our needs.
Let me reaffirm a promise made during the months of campaigning. I
believe in your right to know all the facts concerning the people's
business. Independent firms are making an audit of state finances. When it
is completed, you will have that audit. You will have all the information
you need to make the decisions which must be made. This is not just a
problem for the administration; it is a problem for all of us to solve
together. I know that you can face any prospect and do anything that has
to be done as long as you know the truth of what you are up against.
We will put our fiscal house in order. And as we do, we will build
those things we need to make our state a better place in which to live and
we will enjoy them more, knowing we can afford them and they are paid for.
If, in glancing aloft, some of you were puzzled by the small size
of our state flag... there is an explanation. That flag was carried into
battle in Vietnam by young men of California. Many will not be coming
home. one did Sergeant Robert Howell grievously wounded. He brought that
flag back. I thought we would be proud to have it fly over the Capitol
today. It might even serve to put our problems in better perspective. It
might remind us of the need to give our sons and daughters a cause to
believe in and banners to follow.
If this is a dream, it is a good dream, worthy of our generation
and worth passing on to the next.
Let this day mark the beginning.
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