UNITY: The state’s new governor urges a nonpartisan approach to solving problems.
SACRAMENTO – Invoking an immigrant’s dreams for a better life, Gov. Schwarzenegger promised Monday to bring the same can-do spirit to fixing what ails California.
In an address broadcast worldwide after taking the oath as the state’s 38th governor, the bodybuilder-turned-movie star called for a “miracle of Sacramento” to solve a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall and to mend the partisan rancor left from this year’s recall campaign and
“What we face may look insurmountable. But I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all these years of lifting and training hard,” Schwarzenegger told a crowd of several thousand invited attendees and media gathered outside the Capitol.
“When I thought I couldn’t lift another ounce of weight, what I learned was is that you’re always stronger than you know. And California is like that, too.”
The inauguration brought show-biz glamour to the Capitol as movie stars mingled with politicians and fans cheered the new governor. Schwarzenegger spoke from the Capitol’s west steps in front of a huge state seal and American and California flags.
The new governor, who came to the United States from Austria when he was 21, moved quickly to put his stamp on the Statehouse. Within an hour of taking office, he signed an executive order repealing the Davis administration’s Oct. 1 tripling of the vehicle license fee. Left unsaid, however, was how he plans to make up about $4 billion in revenue that cities and counties receive from the fee.
He also signed an executive order suspending proposed state regulations and reviewing others that have been approved over the last five years.
In addition, he called the Legislature into special session this afternoon for three simultaneous special sessions dealing with the budget deficit, repealing a law granting driver licenses to undocumented immigrants and reforming the workers compensation system.
As part of his budget proposal, Schwarzenegger wants to put a massive bond measure and spending cap on the March 2 ballot.
Democrats, who lost their 5-year-old hold on state government, reacted cautiously to Schwarzenegger’s remarks. State Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, said she appreciated the governor’s words of bipartisan cooperation, but she and other Democrats want to know details of his proposals.
“A lot of us have been looking for specifics,” said Ducheny, who represents part of Riverside County. On slashing the vehicle license fee, she said, “I’m open to other ways on how to replace it. But being from San Diego, I’m particularly sensitive to funding for firefighters.”
Schwarzenegger said the fires three weeks ago in the Inland area and elsewhere in Southern California proved the state’s mettle. “As Californians, we mourn together, we fight together and we will rebuild together,” he said.
Many of the estimated 7,500 people at Monday’s inauguration hailed from the Inland area, where most voters supported the recall and Schwarzenegger.
Ed Manske, owner of Wildomar-based Manske Properties, was glad the car
tax was reduced.
“It’s hurtful for a lot of people who have to drive 30 or 40 miles to their jobs. That’s a hardship.”
Others looked forward to further reforms to the workers compensation system. Surging rates convinced lawmakers to approve changes to the system this year, but Schwarzenegger and others say that wasn’t enough.
On Monday, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi asked Schwarzenegger to support two phases of his plan to reduce workers compensation premiums.
The first phase Garamendi called a “cleanup bill,” designed to tie up loose ends and clarify language from the bill passed in September. The second would take reform further, especially looking at the cost of payments to workers who suffer permanent disabilities. It could also
address fraud and the high cost of legal fees, he said.
Jeannine Martineau, a Lake Elsinore school trustee and president of the state school boards association, said she thinks Schwarzenegger will be able to improve schools without breaking his promise not to raise taxes.
Jamil Dada, chairman of the Riverside County Workforce Development Board, called Schwarzenegger a new captain.
“Everybody, Democrats and Republicans, kept saying, ‘This guy can do it.’ I think the desire is there for even the Democrats to turn this thing around,” Dada said. “I think this is just what we needed.”
Monday’s swearing-in ceremony often seemed an extension of the star-studded campaign Schwarzenegger launched Aug. 6 on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” two weeks after the recall measure qualified for the ballot.
Schwarzenegger’s inauguration committee spent several hundred thousand dollars on the event, transforming the west Capitol steps into an expanse of temporary flooring, bunting and giant U.S. and California flags hanging on the building.
A small army of police officers, some with bomb-sniffing dogs, patrolled the area. The CHP issued about 700 media credentials for the event.
Several movie stars, including “True Lies” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis, attended the ceremony. Actress Vanessa Williams sang the national anthem.
A carnival atmosphere existed outside the ceremony. People sold T-shirts commemorating the event. Demonstrators supporting various causes pressed their message with the help of oversized dumbbells or pink costumes. And an elderly man standing on a bucket kept repeating, “I grabbed them, I groped them, I squeezed them. Happy, happy, happy.”
Dutch tourists Arjan Ten Napel, 30, and Ingrid Van Der Veen, 29, spent the final day of their two-month West Coast vacation driving from San Francisco to attend Monday’s inauguration. They scored last-minute tickets to the swearing-in and also bought a souvenir “I Joined Arnold”
T-shirt to take home.
“This is prime-time television in Holland,” said Ten Napel. “People there think it’s typical America, an actor getting elected governor.”
A cheer went up shortly after 11 a.m. when a pair of jumbo television screens on either side of the stage showed Schwarzenegger and his family striding through the Capitol. Some of the people near the stage began chanting, “Arnold, Arnold.”
“My fellow citizens: Today is a new day in California. I did not seek this office to do things the way they’ve always been done,” Schwarzenegger said. “What I care about is restoring your trust in your government.”
A recurring theme of Schwarzenegger’s speech was reaching out to Democrats. He quoted former President John Kennedy, his wife’s uncle. He pointed out that he so far has appointed several Democrats to his administration.
Likening the problems California faces to the discord leading up to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he said all parties have to put aside their differences.
“Their coming together has been called ‘the Miracle of Philadelphia.’ Now the members of the Legislature and I must bring about the ‘Miracle of Sacramento’ – a miracle based on cooperation, goodwill, new ideas – and devotion to the long-term good of California,” he said.
He also repeated his campaign promise to ignore special interests in Capitol. But his campaign received millions of dollars from development, financial and other interests, and later Monday he attended a swearing-in lunch hosted by the California Chamber of Commerce.
“He has to realize that big business is also a special interest,” said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
Among the groups Schwarzenegger attacked as special interests during the recall campaign were tribes with casinos. Officials said they did not know of any tribal leaders who attended Monday’s ceremony.
Schwarzenegger’s election is a monumental rebound for the state GOP, which a year ago had lost all races for statewide office. The party’s only real influence in state government came on the budget and other legislation requiring two-thirds votes.”Every member of the Legislature, whether they are a Republican or Democrat, has to realize that business as usual is over,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga.