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California

'A Very Clear Vision' for State

During his campaign for governor, Schwarzenegger promised an ambitious agenda for California.

October 12, 2003|Doug Smith | Times Staff Writer

When Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger takes office, he'll begin with a ready-made yardstick to measure his performance.

In speeches and interviews, in his one debate and in written comments made during the two-month campaign, Schwarzenegger promised action on a wide range of issues facing the state and sometimes set specific time goals.

Generally withholding detail as to how he would reach his goals, Schwarzenegger, in effect, asked to be trusted and to be judged by the results.

On its face, his program appears contradictory: He has said he would cut taxes and increase certain services, while identifying no corresponding services he would cut. He said he would make up the difference by streamlining the state bureaucracy to save money and improving the business climate to generate more tax revenue.

Schwarzenegger also has articulated a more subjective goal that will be harder to evaluate.

"I have a very clear vision of a better California, of a California the way it used to be, when people came here and enjoyed working hard, and making a living and this was like the land of opportunity in California and ... I want that to come back like that," he said in an ABC interview with Peter Jennings earlier this month. "That's my vision, and I will get here because I see it very clearly."

Opponents have said that he promised more than he, or anyone, could deliver.

The first milestone on Schwarzenegger's course will be the requirement to produce a budget in January for the 2004-05 fiscal year. Even before then, his own schedule calls for much to be done. He has promised to rescind about $4 billion in vehicle license fees on his first day in office and to start work immediately on a state budget spending cap.

He said he would call a special session of the Legislature upon taking office and, if the Legislature doesn't adopt his proposals, has promised to start the process to take them to the voters as initiatives.

Here are some of the governor-elect's key statements putting forward his agenda:

Taxes

"I believe that not only should we not raise tax rates on anyone in California, but we have to reduce taxes that make our state uncompetitive," Schwarzenegger wrote in a Sept. 24 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Broad opposition to taxes was a central theme in his campaign.

"I feel that the people of California have been punished enough. From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet, they are taxed," he said at an Aug. 20 news conference unveiling his economic plan. "Then they go and get a coffee, they are taxed. They get into their car, they are taxed. They go to the gas station, they are taxed. They go for lunch and they are taxed and [it] goes on all day long, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax. So even when they go to bed, you can really go into the bed and fear that you maybe get taxed while you are sleeping. There's a sleeping tax. This is crazy. This is what this state does and this is why so many businesses have left."

Among all those taxes, he has named only one he would reduce.

"I will repeal the car tax increase immediately upon taking office," he said in a written response to a Times questionnaire published Sept. 28. "The car tax hurts working Californians. The tax is harsh and regressive. I will replace these revenues and eliminate the operating deficit by reducing wasteful spending and bringing jobs back to California."

The day after the election, state Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco) challenged the governor's constitutional authority to repeal the vehicle license fee, which was triggered by a formula written into legislation.

But in his first news conference Wednesday, Schwarzenegger was confident he could follow through on his promise.

"I have my legal advisors now working on that so we can figure out how to do that," he said. "Because as you know there is a debate over can it be done, the first day or not. My advisors say it can."

As part of a 10-point, 100-day plan he unveiled the week before the election, Schwarzenegger said he would call the Legislature into special session to tackle next year's budget.

On Wednesday he reaffirmed his pledge not to increase taxes.

"I campaigned that I would not raise taxes, and I say this again that I will not raise taxes," he said.

Still, in the past, he has outlined two possible exceptions.

"Because we can have, you know, next year an earthquake," he said. "We can have a natural disaster. We could have a terrorist attack or something like that. So we can never say never, no."

Spending

"I promise you as governor I will not spend more money than the state takes in," Schwarzenegger told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on Sept. 10.

He explained the plan with a dieting analogy.

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