Reporting from Washington and Sacramento — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sharpened his criticism of the federal government in an interview televised Sunday, taking aim at California's congressional representatives for what he said was a failure to advocate for enough funding from Washington.
Schwarzenegger said in his State of the State address Wednesday and in unveiling his budget proposal Friday that the state would press Washington for what he says is its fair share of the taxes Californians pay to the federal government. He said California receives less for every dollar it sends than other states.
"We also will inspire and push extra hard the California congressional delegation, the bipartisan delegation, because they're not . . . representing us really well in this case," Schwarzenegger said in a interview taped Saturday. "If you think about that, the Senate just voted for a healthcare bill that is saying basically that California should pay for Nebraska, so that Nebraska never has to pay any extra money."
In a statement, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) denied trading his vote for favorable treatment for his state, but added that giving California relief from a provision "that kicks in seven years from now isn't going to solve the $20-billion deficit California has today."
The state's federal lawmakers had reacted negatively to Schwarzenegger's statements last week even before his more pointed criticism of them.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, head of the California Democraticcontingent in Congress, said Friday that the delegation will do "what we can to support California."
But she said Schwarzenegger "sounds like he's trying to avoid responsibility. He's the governor. We're not. There has been a financial storm brewing in California for years. They haven't dealt with it."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) disputed Schwarzenegger's assertions that California isn't getting its fair share, contending that the governor's office is using outdated figures that don't reflect the money the state has received under the federal stimulus bill, among others. The Democratic-controlled Congress is working on a jobs bill that could send more money to states.
"What I don't think is helpful," Boxer said, is arguing that "it's the federal government against the state government.
"We're representing the same people here," said Boxer, who is up for reelection.
In his interview with NBC's David Gregory, Schwarzenegger dodged a question about what he would do if the federal government does not come up with extra money to help plug the state's $20-billion deficit.
"I never really think so much about the Option B, because that's a loser's attitude," Schwarzenegger answered, saying he would keep pushing until he succeeds.
He neglected to tell the national television audience that he does have an Option B: a "trigger" he included in his budget plan Friday under which he would eliminate the state programs providing welfare, children's healthcare and home care for the elderly and disabled, among other cuts, if the federal government doesn't come through. That plan is unlikely to be approved by state lawmakers, however.