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Deukmejian Vetoes School-Funding Bill

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SACRAMENTO, CALIF.--Gov. George Deukmejian of California has vetoed legislation that would have added $76.3 million to the state's precollegiate-education budget for the current fiscal year.

The March 29 veto of the spending bill, which sets the stage for an override attempt, occurred in the context of an angry public debatebetween Mr. Deukmejian and Bill Honig, the state school superintendent, over the adequacy of the Governor's proposed fiscal 1988 spending plan for precollegiate education.

In his veto message, the Governor, a Republican, chastised the Democratic-controlled legislature for proposing to finance the measure from the state's general-fund budget surplus, and not from a $400-million reserve in California's public-employee pension fund.

Mr. Deukmejian says the general-fund surplus is now $550 million and should reach $1 billion by the end of fiscal 1988. The school-aid bill's backers, however, say the surplus is already about $1 billion.

The bill would have provided additional funds for the state's "urban impact aid'' program, a transportation program for rural schools, and community colleges.

The legislature approved $107- million for the programs in a fiscal 1987 appropriations bill last June, but the Governor used his line-item veto authority to cut the amount in half. Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation in their current session to help offset the effects of the cut.

Lawmakers Criticized

"I am disappointed that the legislature adamantly refuses to provide the source of funding necessary to provide the $76 million needed for these programs,'' the Governor said in his veto message last month.

While the bill did not identify a source for the funds, legislators had indicated that the money would come from the budget surplus.

"It's a case of sheer stubbornness because we won't let him raid the public-retirement funds,'' said State Senator Barry Keene, the bill's sponsor.

"The irony is, he doesn't even need to,'' the Senator said. "He has $1 billion in his 'rainy day' fund.''

Mr. Keene said he would ask the legislature to override the Governor's veto. Although the bill enjoyed bipartisan support, observers say the outcome of the override attempt may be too close to predict.

The bill was approved by a vote of 25 to 7 in the Senate, where 27 votes are needed to override a veto, and by a vote of 59 to 15 in the Assembly, where 54 votes are needed.

School Groups Respond

Major state education groups criticized the Governor's action and supported the move to override the veto.

"The action adversely affects 700 school districts which had already included the ... state funds in their budgets for the current year,'' said Dianne Jacob, president of the California School Boards Association.

"We do know the Governor wants to solve this problem,'' she said. "However, at this point, until a solution is presented, we have no other recourse but to urge the legislature to override the Governor's veto.''

Ed Foglia, president of the California Teachers Association, said the organization's members would be "exerting all their energies in support of veto-override efforts.''

Local school officials, meanwhile, began assessing the potential fallout from the Governor's veto.

"We will be losing $19 million, so it's not something to be taken lightly,'' said Santiago Jackson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "What it does is make the collective-bargaining negotiations now under way with teachers that much more difficult.''

Mr. Jackson noted that district officials had anticipated the veto and had begun making contingency plans months in advance.

Thomas Giugni, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, said his district will lose about $1.8 million because of the dispute.

"We spend $2,925 per pupil per year,'' he said. "And all but about $250 is spent on salaries, which are secure because of contracts.''

He said cuts would have to be made in areas including instructional-materials costs and campus maintenance. Even if the Governor prevails in his dispute with the legislature, school leaders say his action may have enhanced their chances of scoring substantial victories later in the current legislative session, because of growing public dissatisfaction over Mr. Deukmejian's school-funding policies.

In a recent poll commissioned by The Sacramento Bee, 71 percent of the respondents said they favored additional funding for schools, while only 14 percent supported the Governor's contention that schools should settle for the 2.1 percent increase that he proposed in his budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

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