SACRAMENTO — He drew a line in the sand a few weeks ago, vowing to veto every bill that reached his office before a state budget was in place. Now, 57 days into a new fiscal year without a budget in sight, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has reversed himself.
He sent a letter Monday to legislative leaders, telling them to hurry up and send him several measures he is interested in. Each would have to be approved by voters, and the state is almost out of time to put them on the November ballot.
"The governor believes that Californians ought to have an opportunity to vote on all these measures," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.
The issue most directly affected by the governor's reversal is a $9.9-billion high-speed rail bond. It's already on the ballot, but the governor and lawmakers want to change some of its provisions.
So, on Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers sent to Schwarzenegger a measure to steer more of the funds toward a route that extends to Anaheim from San Francisco. The existing proposal emphasizes a route that ends in Los Angeles.
The governor signed the bill, AB 3034 by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), and it is now headed for the ballot.
The ballot language also will change to limit how much of the money can be used for environmental studies and mitigation, planning, property acquisition, relocation assistance and administrative expenses.
Other routes that the money might be spent on include Sacramento to Fresno, Oakland to San Jose, and Bakersfield to Los Angeles.
The governor also wants to sign measures for the ballot that include a bond to address the state's water supply, a plan to borrow against future lottery profits and controls on how much the state could spend each year.
At his weekly news briefing Tuesday, McLear had to explain why lawmakers should believe that the governor wouldn't ultimately fold and sign anything else they send him.
"He will not sign any other bills until we have a budget," McLear said.