SACRAMENTO, CA — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the campaign trail Friday and attacked Democratic lawmakers for the state’s fiscal problems, a day after the two sides failed to compromise on alternatives to his “year of reform” initiatives.
In public appearances in Sacramento and Berkeley, the governor moved to revive his role as a political outsider running against the entrenched interests of the Capitol.
“After years of making mistakes and running the state into this enormous debt of $22 billion – now up to $25 billion – still the legislators have not learned to live within their means,” the governor said in a morning speech to the Black Chamber of Commerce state conference. “They are still spending $1.10 for every $1 they take in, and you know as business people you would never be able to do business this way.”
A few hours later, after a tour of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Schwarzenegger again blamed the Legislature for California’s problems.
“It was them,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “They are still almost the same people who have created the problems in California.”
The Republican governor’s comments were in sharp contrast to the praise he showered on Democratic leaders only the night before, following an intense but unsuccessful series of talks. The negotiations had been aimed at finding a compromise over the initiatives Schwarzenegger helped qualify for the Nov. 8 special election ballot.
His criticism drew a quick response from Democrats.
“The initiatives that are currently on the ballot do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life for Californians,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. “In fact, I argue they would do the opposite.”
Schwarzenegger’s measures would impose a new state spending cap, redraw lawmakers’ districts in an attempt to increase competition for seats and impose longer probationary terms for teachers.
Among the five other measures on the ballot is a proposal to force unions to get their members’ permission before dues could be used for political purposes. If voters approve it, the so-called paycheck protection initiative could severely restrict donations to Democrats, who draw a significant share of their money from labor unions.
“The November election is a referendum on right-wing Republican principles and values,” Nunez said during a news conference in Los Angeles. “Really what it is is balancing the budget on the backs of public education, public employees. This is really an anti-tax effort by many folks who believe that California needs to be a conservative state, and it isn’t.”
By Friday night, Schwarzenegger was scheduled to embark on his latest out-of-state fundraising tour.
The trip will take him to Nevada and New Jersey before ending Sunday in Boston. Schwarzenegger will entertain donors at a Rolling Stones concert in Fenway Park at a price of $10,000 or $100,000 per contributor.
The concert is generating significant interest, said Marty Wilson, who helps manage Schwarzenegger’s fundraising efforts. He would not release the amount contributed so far.
Meanwhile, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, questioned whether Schwarzenegger’s use of the Stones’ concert as a fundraising event violated Massachusetts law against ticket scalping.
“Massachusetts consumers are being squeezed out of the concert so Schwarzenegger can raise millions of dollars to push his big-industry donors’ agenda in California,” said Doug Heller, executive director of the Santa Monica-based consumer group, which has been one of the governor’s most vocal critics.
Corey Welford, a spokesman for the Massachusetts attorney general office, declined to comment on the accusation.
Wilson said the campaign is not selling tickets to the concert but instead is holding a fundraising event in which an added benefit is attending the concert: “We’re not scalping,” he said.
Associated Press Writers Michael Blood in Los Angeles, Steve Lawrence in Sacramento and Lisa Leff in Berkeley contributed to this report.