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Schwarzenegger Takes Message on the Road

CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS

February 29, 2004|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

FRESNO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, riding through the center of the state Saturday in a red motor coach with his photograph on the side, urged voters to "be my power lifters" and support his plan for eliminating budget deficits in Tuesday's election.

While the topics of the one-day "road to recovery" bus tour from the San Fernando Valley north to Fresno were propositions 57 and 58, the governor also spoke out for Proposition 55, a statewide bond issue for school construction.

At stops in Van Nuys, Bakersfield and Fresno, the governor suggested that the broad, bipartisan coalition of interest groups supporting 57 and 58 should be a model for tackling other priorities.

"We are pumping up those propositions to make sure they will pass," Schwarzenegger told about 200 at Mulholland Middle School in Van Nuys on Saturday morning. "After that, we have to make the next moves, the next move and the next move and the next move all together. Because we are seeing now how much we can accomplish when the two parties work together."

The governor's voice grew louder as the tour headed north. Before 1,000 people at the Valley Plaza mall in Bakersfield, Schwarzenegger, to the beat of U2's "Beautiful Day," declared: "When Californians get together and they want to fix something, they can fix it. And we will fix it on Tuesday."

By the tour's conclusion in Fresno early Saturday evening, Schwarzenegger was pleading with voters to extend his mandate from the Oct. 7 recall election. "You have flexed your muscles once before," the former bodybuilding champion yelled, adding, "All of the promises that I have made I will keep."

"But I need your help," he continued. "There's a massive weight that we must lift off our state ... and I want you to be my power lifters. Help me to lift off this weight. Help me to bring this state back."

Proposition 57 authorizes up to $15 billion in long-term borrowing to cover the budget deficits of the last three years. Some of the money also could be used for spending in the 2004-05 budget. Proposition 58 is a constitutional amendment that would require the Legislature to enact a balanced budget and would set up a rainy day reserve for the state. The measures are linked; if either fails to gain majority support, both fail. Much of the state's political establishment has rallied around the measures as a way to avoid unpopular tax increases and spending cuts.

Proposition 58 holds a huge lead in opinion polls and is expected to pass. But the campaign for Proposition 57, the $15-billion bond, has been a struggle. Proposition 57 had the support of 51% of voters statewide in a Times poll released this past week, but it trailed in the Central Valley, 43% to 47% among 129 likely voters surveyed. The margin of error was nine percentage points.

Showing confidence, the governor has canceled television interviews in recent days to pitch the measures, and also pulled back from a planned event in Sacramento today. He is scheduled to appear at a San Jose library today with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and at the downtown Los Angeles coffee shop of state Education Secretary Richard Riordan on Monday morning to campaign for 57 and 58.

On Monday night he is scheduled to appear on the "Tonight Show With Jay Leno," where he announced his run for governor on Aug. 6. Advisors say they are content to rely on television advertisements that have been airing for three weeks, along with 2 million pieces of mail, an absentee ballot program, and 300,000 taped phone calls Schwarzenegger and other backers are making to the homes of voters. The campaign's total cost is estimated at more than $8.5 million.

Schwarzenegger felt comfortable enough Saturday to devote part of his Van Nuys speech to his support of Proposition 55, a $12-billion school bond measure. In the past, the governor has avoided talking about his support for 55 out of concern, he has said, that voters might confuse the school bond with his own deficit bond, Proposition 57.

On Saturday, he sought to link the two bonds, arguing that both were needed to "save education."

"We need more buildings, we need more schools, we need more teachers," he said. "That's what Proposition 55 is all about. That's what Proposition 57 and 58 is all about. It is the same."

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