Arnold’s first 100 days win praise;

Published on

4 goals complete, others under way

The Daily News of Los Angeles

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger marks 100 days in office on Tuesday, with pundits and politicians praising him for changing Sacramento’s political culture while conceding he has a lot of work left to achieve his policy goals.

Schwarzenegger took office Nov. 17, after the shortest transition time for any modern elected governor – about six weeks – promising “action, action, action” to end the state’s fiscal crisis.

Of the 10 items Schwarzenegger promised to achieve in a speech made a week before he won the election, he has completed only four: repealing the tripling of the car tax; repealing the law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; freezing spending while launching an audit of the state budget; and submitting a 2004-05 budget that closes the deficit and restructures inherited debt.

But he hasn’t failed at or completely abandoned any of the other tasks either – most of them are under way, in the hands of lawmakers or heading to the ballot.

“He hasn’t worked miracles, but he’s been more effective than a lot of people thought he might be,” said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

“A lot of people wondered whether he would really take the governorship seriously and he certainly has. He’s proving quite effective as a political leader.”

Schwarzenegger supporters praise his efforts to work closely with Democratic legislators – even when they fought him – and for achieving as much as he has, given that he is a novice politician running the country’s most populous state.

Critics say he has introduced a budget that hurts the poor and most vulnerable segments of society, while not forcing the rich to similarly sacrifice through closing corporate tax loopholes. They also complain he has continued to be a prolific fund-raiser, despite criticizing his predecessor, Gov. Gray Davis, for his own excessive fund-raising abilities.

But even Democrats who disagree with his policies say they appreciate his efforts to reach out to them, sharing a cigar in his office courtyard, for example, or staying up until the wee hours of the morning to hash out his bond deal.

“I think this governor has done a very good job at extending a hand of cooperation with the Legislature,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. “In his first 100 days, through his words and his deeds, he has demonstrated he is a governor who seeks to find common ground.

“That is so critical to solving the state’s problems.”

Even Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, a Democrat and one of the harshest critics of Schwarzenegger’s proposal to take some property tax revenue from cities and counties, is a fan. “For somebody who had no prior governmental experience, I think he’s done very well in his command of the lay of the land up there in Sacramento.

“I think he should earn very high marks. I think he’s a very engaging person. Everybody enjoys how down-to-earth he is. He’s very approachable, a quick study, a good listener.

“I think he’s doing what he needs to do to put the state on the right track.”

On the other side, Schwarzenegger has critics in his own party.

State Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, who ran against Schwarzenegger in the recall campaign, said his administration so far has been “a decidedly mixed bag.”

The Senate’s top fiscal conservative agrees with lowering the car tax and keeping driver’s licenses from illegal immigrants, but he disagrees with the governor’s plan to borrow $15 billion to stave off financial disaster, rather than making sharper cuts in state programs.

“He has not brought state spending under control and the notion that we cansomehow borrow our way out of this problem is a serious mistake,” McClintock said.

And he hasn’t reached out to every legislator, McClintock added.

“I’ve had far more extensive policy discussions with the governor of Alaska (one 45-minute conversation) than I have had with the governor of California.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said the governor has been successful overall in his goals so far, saying those that have not been completed are under way and their completion depends on other parties, such as the Legislature, public employee unions and the Indian gaming tribes.

Critics are “technically toe-faulting” him for not finishing everything by Day 100, he added.

“I think people are generally satisfied that he’s come up here to do what he said he would do,” Stutzman said. “That is, to represent them, be impervious to special interests, get the Legislature in line, clean house and move ahead with restoring the state’s fiscal house.”

The governor’s leading critic is state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is expected to run for governor in 2006.

He bashed Schwarzenegger for proposing a budget that cuts education and transportation, raises tuition fees at state colleges, limits the Healthy Families program and cuts other state services, while adding $15 billion in debt on future generations.

“I don’t think success should be measured by the number of cigars handed out on the Capitol patio,” Angelides said. “It ought to be measured by, ‘Is this a fair budget? Does it build our economy?’ On each of those scores, the governor has failed.”

Schwarzenegger will spend Day 100 in Washington, D.C., at the National Governor’s Conference, then head to New York City for a fund-raiser, where invitees are being asked to donate up to $500,000 to support his March ballot measure campaign.

That, some critics say, demonstrates one of his biggest failings: to end the influence of special interests on Sacramento.

During his campaign, he initially said he wouldn’t accept any campaign money from outside sources. He later amended his pledge to say he wouldn’t take money from special interests, then narrowed the definition of special interest to public employee unions, Indian gaming tribes and single-issue trade associations.

He also pledged to ban fund raising during the budget process.

But critics say Schwarzenegger is a prolific fund-raiser who is taking money from plenty of special interests for his March ballot campaign, even if they don’t fall within his narrow definition of special interests.

“Schwarzenegger has been fund raising even faster than Gov. Gray Davis, the person who wrote the book on cash-register politics,” said Jerry Flanagan, a consumer advocate at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

“Schwarzenegger’s been violating those promises, raising money from the same old players that have been in California.”

For example, he said, big business groups, drug companies and insurers, all of which have interests in upcoming state legislation, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the ballot campaign.

Stutzman said a key difference between Schwarzenegger and Davis is there have been no allegations that Schwarzenegger’s policies are influenced by donations.

In fact, he said, the governor recently demanded the return of a check by a contributor who was complaining about a policy matter at a fund-raiser – although that donor later publicly denied that he was asking the governor for anything at the event.

“The governor’s committed to fund raising, when it furthers what he said he would do, which is to take his agenda to the ballot when necessary on behalf of the people and ask for their cooperation,” Stutzman said.

“I think another distinction you need to draw from previous administrations (is) not only is it not going to his personal campaign account, but I have yet to see anyone suggest a legislative nexus between fund raising and governmental decisions, as those nexuses could be drawn in the prior administration.”
Contact the author: Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723 or [email protected]

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