In California, new governor talks positive

But Schwarzenegger, after big win, offers no solution to budget crisis

Fiscal woes worse than thought

Actor to put movie career on ice, commute to capital

October 09, 2003|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

LOS ANGELES - Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger awoke yesterday to the realities he will soon confront in leading the nation's wealthiest, most populous and, for the moment, angriest state.

But when he surfaced late in the day for a post-election news conference, he smilingly offered no specific solutions to California's problems and conceded off-handedly that its biggest - the budget crisis - could be worse than he expected.

He charmingly told the story of 13-year-old Katherine, his eldest child, coming into his bedroom before dawn with a cup of coffee and whispering in his ear, "Mr. Governor, your coffee is ready." He added, with a grin: "Very cute."

The new Republican governor has a short time to assemble an administration before he is sworn in, probably by mid- November, in a state capital dominated by Democrats.

Adversaries are already sharpening their claws for the unavoidable struggle over taxes and spending. But on the day after he was swept into power, he chose to accentuate the positive.

"I don't think one should take the negative approach," he said, and seemed to take heart from the traditional round of congratulatory phone calls from state Democratic leaders. "They all said, `We are looking forward to working with you, Arnold.'"

He brought himself up short, at one point, after he slipped back into campaign mode by describing as "bogus" one of outgoing Gov. Gray Davis' flip-flops.

"I don't want to talk negative anymore about that administration. The election is over," he told reporters at a West Los Angeles hotel.

Schwarzenegger said, after taking a deep breath, that he would have "no time" for making movies or other business ventures. But he ducked when asked if he would be moving to Sacramento, the state capital. (Later, he seemed to indicate that he'd be commuting by private jet from his home in Los Angeles. His work at the Capitol, he said, would be just "like being on a movie set, on a movie location. And sometimes I'm home and sometimes I'm not home.")

He even embraced the news media, the source of unrelieved negative reports in the final week of the campaign about alleged womanizing.

"Please do me a favor," he pleaded, after taking questions for about 20 minutes. "Stay with me the next three years, because you are absolutely essential for me to get my message out there. I really appreciate your being a part of this campaign."

The unofficial vote total from Tuesday's recall ballot showed that Schwarzenegger received at least 100,000 more votes than Davis got in attempting to defeat the recall, strengthening the legitimacy of his election.

But while the vote settled the issue of who would serve the final three years of Davis' term, it created a series of uncertainties and questions about his replacement and how he intends to meet the seemingly contradictory promises of his campaign.

Schwarzenegger must find a way to balance the high - some would say impossible - expectations of supporters with the hard reality of his new job.

Many Schwarzenegger voters told Election Day pollsters they believe he can fix the state's budget mess without raising taxes. But the political establishment in Sacramento is largely convinced that he cannot, barring a major upswing in the state's slowly recovering economy.

Again yesterday, Schwarzenegger affirmed his pledge not to raise taxes, even as he acknowledged that the budget gap could be as much as double the previous estimate, or $20 billion out of annual state spending of about $100 billion. He airily promised that when his aides start combing budget documents they would find billions in wasteful spending.

He said he would be asking President Bush for "a lot of favors" on California's behalf. There's "a lot of money we can get from the federal government," he said, though Washington - facing a $500 billion deficit of its own - is unlikely to concur.

Democrats, who control the Legislature and every statewide office in California, appear to be of two minds in their approach to the governor-elect. Some dismiss him as a dunce even as they carefully promise to treat him in a civil manner.

"He doesn't know anything about running the state. So, either he will propose a lot of stuff he can't do and we'll have to govern, or he'll be pretty well manipulated by people who have an agenda, very much the way I think the president of the United States has been handled by people who are really telling him how to do these things," state Sen. Sheila Kuehl told Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub.

Others, having studied Schwarzenegger's impressive vote totals, are likely to treat him with greater respect, if not fear. The wave of anger and distrust that cost Davis his job could easily be directed at them, legislators realize, possibly with the new governor's help.

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