Sacramento Trip Includes Discussions With Governor and State Lawmakers
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 23 — California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will not take office for weeks, but the style and substance of the administration that he and his advisers are rushing to organize are becoming clear.
Schwarzenegger has emerged from the behind-the-scenes work of his transition in recent days to make perhaps his most important personnel appointment and to travel to Sacramento for the first time since California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis (D) earlier this month and chose the actor to replace him.
After a whirlwind and mostly light-hearted round of bipartisan chats with legislative leaders in the capital Wednesday, Schwarzenegger met Thursday morning with Davis. Throughout the campaign, the two men traded bitter charges, but they appeared to put aside that rancor in a brief public appearance. They pledged to work together to make the extraordinary political change wrought by the historic recall proceed smoothly.
Since his election, Schwarzenegger has been courting Democrats, who control the state legislature, with kind words and backslapping visits.
“The governor has been very gracious and absolutely fantastic,” Schwarzenegger told reporters Thursday. “I will need the governor’s help in the future.”
Davis, conceding that his hasty exit from office is “not fun,” told Schwarzenegger, “This is the best job you’ll ever have. Even on the bad days, enjoy it.”
After conferring privately with Davis, Schwarzenegger then met with other statewide officeholders — all of whom are Democrats. On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger also dropped by a meeting of 80 tech leaders in Silicon Valley. He is planning to travel to Washington next week to meet with the 53 members of California’s congressional delegation.
Aides to Schwarzenegger say he is likely to take office in mid-November, after California’s secretary of state certifies the results of the recall election, but an exact date for his swearing-in has not been set.
He will have no time to settle into the job. California is afflicted with one of the nation’s most severe fiscal crises — a budget deficit that is likely to exceed $12 billion and could reach $20 billion.
Earlier this week, state Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) warned of more looming financial peril, telling reporters that if the multibillion-dollar borrowing that the state has relied on this year to stay solvent is overturned by court challenges, budget cuts will have to be more extreme. Schwarzenegger has said repeatedly that he will not raise taxes.
Schwarzenegger told lawmakers this week that he is likely to call them into special session shortly after he takes office to confront the state’s budget problems and to deal with several other issues he considers top priorities, such as repealing a new law that allows undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses and revamping California’s workers’ compensation rules.
“Action, action, action, action — that’s what people have voted me into this office for,” he told reporters Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger announced the first major appointment of his administration, naming as his chief of staff a prominent health care lobbyist who also worked for then-California Gov. Pete Wilson (R).
Patricia Clarey, 50, had been Wilson’s deputy chief of staff. When he left office in 1998 after serving two terms, she became vice president of government affairs for Health Net Inc., a health maintenance organization based in Los Angeles.
Clarey is widely viewed as an experienced hand in California’s huge state government, but some consumer advocates immediately questioned Schwarzenegger’s decision to hire her, given that he campaigned as a political outsider who would battle special interests.
The Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights, a nonprofit group based in Santa Monica, called Schwarzenegger’s decision to hire Clarey “a clear violation” of one of his campaign promises, saying, “HMO lobbyists should not be part of an administration that pledged to govern for the people.”