Fri, Oct 10, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Arnie might have trouble delivering on his promises

GETTING TO WORK With his high-octane campaign behind him, California's governor-elect has to face problems like the budget and disgruntled Democrats


A week ago, then-candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger laid out a plan for his first 100 days that was long on ambition but short on details. Now comes the hard part.

He'll try to deliver on glowing promises to right California's troubled economy without raising taxes and while preserving education funding, which accounts for 40 percent of the state's bud-get. His proposals will have to go through a Legislature controlled by Democrats who were angered by a recall process some considered a hostile takeover of the state's top political job, and he'll have to quickly deliver a budget that makes up a shortfall of at least US$8 billion.

Schwarzenegger told a press conference on Wednesday that he was promised ``a very smooth transition'' by ousted Governor Gray Davis.

"I am very optimistic about working together with the Democratic leaders in Sacramento," he told reporters at the Century Plaza Hotel.

He said he had spoken with an array of leaders including former president Nelson Mandela of South Africa and US President George W. Bush, who he said promised to do "whatever is possible to help California." Schwarzenegger said he intended to ask Bush for "a lot of favors."

The Republican actor will be sworn into the office by mid-November, becoming California's 38th governor.

Schwarzenegger takes office as the Republican Party's lone statewide officeholder in a state where the congressional delegation and both houses of the Legislature are heavily Democratic.

And while the voters gave Schwarzenegger a resounding vic-tory, they lean Democratic, too -- 44 percent to 35 percent Republican. More voters supported Schwarzenegger, 3.6 million, than voted against recalling Davis, 3.5 million -- an outcome Schwarzenegger aides touted as a mandate after weeks of predictions from Democrats that the winner might triumph with a small percentage of the vote.

"The fact that he got more votes than Gray Davis puts him in a position of strength," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican Party consultant. "There's going to be some Democrats up there who are going to want to play ball reasonably with Arnold Schwarzenegger."

"With the campaign now behind him, governor-elect Schwarzenegger has the obligation and responsibility to lay out how he will put our fiscal house in order and repair the economy, and it's going to be a tall order," state Treasurer Phil Angelides said, while pledging to do his "level best" to work with Schwarzeneg-ger.

But even if lawmakers and voters grant him a honeymoon period, Schwarzenegger's toughest challenges may loom in the form of his own campaign-trail promises.

In glowing stump speeches and high-octane rallies, Schwarzenegger told voters fed up with years in which they endured the energy crisis, budget deficits, rising fees and partisan gridlock that he would clean up and restore lustre to Sacramento and bring back jobs.

"For the first time, we'll have somebody who will probably listen to the people and figure out what it is that has to be done, not the same old thing the way politics goes," said Jim Hall, 62, as he worked out at a health club in Camarillo. "Bring on Arnold. He'll fix it. Gray Davis is history."

Schwarzenegger's toughest and first challenge: the looming US$8 billion deficit. It will grow by US$4 billion if Schwarzenegger makes good on his promise to immediately repeal this year's tripling of the car tax. He has said he will not raise taxes except in case of emergency. He also promised not to cut education. But he never specified what he would cut.

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