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Visit by Bush Brings Calls for More Federal Aid

Schwarzenegger and some state Democrats hope the president will pledge U.S. money, mostly for levee repairs, on his four-day stop.

April 21, 2006|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Sounding similar themes, California Democrats and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that when President Bush arrives in California today for a rare four-day weekend in the state, he should bring pledges of federal financial assistance, particularly to shore up the state's levees.

The governor, speaking to reporters in Sacramento, angrily denounced a senior Bush administration official's assertion that the state did not need immediate federal help to repair the structures.

Schwarzenegger said he would tell Bush that "our levees need a comprehensive repair job before something terrible happens."

The two have spent little time with each other despite the president's often-stated fondness for the nation's governors. They are scheduled to meet during a brief motorcade ride to San Jose from the city's airport.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said in a telephone conference call with reporters that the president needed to reverse the flow of money from California to Washington, D.C. The state gets back only 79 cents for every dollar in federal taxes that it sends to the nation's capital, they said.

"President Bush comes to California every two years and does a song and dance but doesn't deliver the bacon," Nunez said. The president was in California six months ago.

Bush is scheduled to speak this afternoon at the headquarters of the high-tech Cisco Systems in San Jose on his proposal to boost math and science education.

The president also wants to extend the federal tax credit on research and development to build the nation's ability to compete with India, China and other developing economies overseas.

His agenda includes an address on energy-saving fuel cell technology, marking Earth Day in Sacramento on Saturday; a Republican fundraising dinner Saturday evening in Palm Springs; several events at the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms on Sunday; and a speech on immigration in Irvine on Monday.

The president, who has found little political support in California, has made barely a dozen visits to the state during his 63 months in office.

By comparison, President Clinton visited the state more than two dozen times during his first term alone.

The dispute between the state and the federal government over the levees, particularly those in the Sacramento River Delta, has grown in recent weeks.

After an aerial tour of the region this week, acting Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett was quoted as saying that spending on levee improvements matched the current needs.

Schwarzenegger has been saying for months that without federal aid to repair the levees, California could face a Hurricane Katrina-like flooding disaster that could cost the government a lot more than what it would need to make the fixes now.

The governor is looking for $56 million to $75 million to repair eroded earth foundations for two dozen levees and $3 billion in federal assistance for flood-control projects as part of a massive public works bond issue he has proposed.

Lofgren, in the telephone call, urged that Bush show up ready to offer federal money -- a course the president made clear he was not, in general, prepared to follow when the nation's governors came to Washington last month.

"We want President Bush to treat California with the respect we deserve," Lofgren said. "We need more than talk. We need some money."


Times staff writer Peter Nicholas in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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