Biography of U.S. President Ronald Reagan Part 6 California Governor

About the United States President Ronald Reagan, biography and history of his early career as a California Governor.


40th President



On Nov. 8, 1966, Reagan beat Brown by 845,000 votes. Inaugurated in a midnight ceremony on Jan. 2, 1967, California's 33rd governor turned to his old Hollywood friend George Murphy (then a U.S. senator) and said, "Well, here we are on the late show again." After inaugural festivities arranged by Walt Disney Studios, Reagan set about translating his tax-cutting rhetoric into action. Promising to "squeeze and cut and trim" state expenses, he began with a proposal to reduce the University of California's budget by 25% and introduce tuition to make up the difference--thus obliterating the prestigious university's 100-year tradition of free education for the top 12% of the state's students. Tuition, said the governor, "would help get rid of undesirables." Students and educators saw this plan as retaliation for campus demonstrations. Evidently Reagan agreed with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty, that the University of California offered a "four-year course in sex, drugs, and treason", moreover, he had tapped a huge reservoir of public resentment against liberalism on campus. With popular support, Reagan arranged the dismissal of UC President Clark Kerr. Before his first month in office was over, Reagan had been hanged in effigy on the Berkeley campus. Reagan relished his war with the universities. When students at San Francisco State College went on strike, demanding the creation of black and ethnic studies departments, Reagan committed 600 police a day to the campus to restore order. When students and locals in Berkeley turned a vacant lot owned by the University of California into a park, Reagan ordered that it be destroyed. Later he lauded the efforts of the police after they fired into a crowd, killing one bystander and wounding 100 other people.

The 25% UC budget cut never materialized: in fact, like other state expenditures, the UC budget actually increased 100% during Reagan's eight-year tenure as governor. By 1975 the state's budget had increased by 122%--the largest hike in any state--and Reagan had signed into law the single biggest tax increase in the history of California: $1 billion, in one jump.

The Reagan administration's first year was riddled with crisis and confrontation. In March, 1967,he proposed shutting down 15 state mental-health facilities and phasing out 3,700 jobs in the Dept. of Mental Hygiene. About 650 California psychiatrists formally protested, pointing out that the agencies slated for closing were the very ones whose treatments were most effective in reducing the number of institutional patients. Reagan called them "head shrinkers" working at the "biggest hotel chain in the state." After Denmark's director of mental health facilities visited a northern California state mental hospital in November, 1967, he told the press of the shocking conditions there, the worst he had seen in a dozen countries. Reagan lost his temper and denied that California had anything but first-rate facilities. He implied that the director was part of a conspiracy to discredit the Reagan administration. A few days later the governor apologized.

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