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Schwarzenegger Picks a Diverse Transition Team

The governor-elect taps Florida's budget chief to lead an audit of state finances. His 65-member advisory group is a study in bipartisanship.

October 10, 2003|Matea Gold and Jeffrey L. Rabin | Times Staff Writers

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday tapped Donna Arduin, a veteran state budget director, to carry out his promised audit of California's finances, a task she vowed would be accomplished before the new governor has to present his first budget in January.

The appointment of Arduin, Florida's budget director, as his audit leader came as Schwarzenegger announced a broadly bipartisan transition team including a conservative political opponent, veterans of the last Republican gubernatorial administration and Democrats, one of whom is San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a favorite target of the GOP.

Arduin was granted a leave from her current job by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. She previously served as acting director of New York state's budget office and worked as chief deputy director of Michigan's Office of Management and Budget -- all under Republican governors.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference at a Santa Monica hotel, Schwarzenegger said Arduin will help him accomplish his first goal as governor: "Open up the books and let the people look inside."

"Let the sun shine in," the incoming governor said. "There is a lot of waste that we will find."

Democratic legislators have warned Schwarzenegger that they believe his task will be more difficult than he anticipates. They note that much of the budget is committed to various state programs and that lawmakers already made deep cuts last year.

Schwarzenegger said he hopes to work with the Legislature to reform state spending, but he reiterated his intention to bypass that body and put his financial plan on the ballot if he does not find political support in Sacramento.

"If I can't get my things through, I will go directly to the people," he said.

Arduin, who said she is volunteering in her new post, told reporters that she planned to travel to Sacramento after the news conference and would begin work immediately.

"The first thing the governor asked me to look at was the size of the problem, the size and the scope," she said. "He asked us to go in and audit the budget and tell him what's there."

Schwarzenegger's budget pronouncements are captive to an extremely tight time frame: his first budget is due at the printers' in late December.

Arduin said she was confident that the task could be accomplished before Jan. 10, the constitutional deadline for the new governor to submit a budget.

"We intend to work through the transition time and then the first couple months of his being governor," she said.

Arduin's appointment was highlighted as Schwarzenegger announced a 65-member transition team, culled from a variety of disciplines, to help guide his move into the governor's office.

The diversity and prominence of the team -- which includes people as different as Bill Simon Jr., the former Republican candidate for governor, Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina and Brown, the liberal Democratic mayor of San Francisco -- speaks to the resources and clout of the new governor.Symbolically, as well, it underscored Schwarzenegger's campaign promise to cast a wide net as he seeks advisors.

"You will see people that are to the left, people that are to the right, and people that are to the center," Schwarzenegger said of the group.

"You will see people all the way from Bill Simon all the way to the other side to Willie Brown."

Schwarzenegger said he wants the transition team to help make recommendations on the "best and the brightest people in the state to come and work ... in my administration."

But some political analysts said the very makeup of the group suggested many of its members would not play central roles in shaping the new administration.

"I would be surprised if this group is anything other than the wrapping of the package," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State.

"This sounds to me more like an advisory group than a group that's going to roll up its sleeves and deal with upwards of 2,000 positions and supervise a statewide budget. In the end, it will be a small cadre of officials who will be making the major decisions."

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said that the new governor would call on the various members of the transition team for advice about people to bring into the administration, but that there were no plans to hold a meeting of the entire group because of the difficulty of assembling them all in one place.

The transition team put together by Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), an ally of President Bush, includes state lawmakers, current and former mayors, a former U.S. secretary of state, law enforcement officials, a movie director, a labor leader, a farmer, a billionaire, a tax reform advocate and a literary agent.

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