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California Budget Crisis Diaries: Gov. ventures to D.C. in search of funds

Criticism of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continued as he visited Washington D.C. Wednesday. But one thing is different, as Schwarzenegger’s senior adviser chimes in backing the boss on his moves. This California Budget Crisis Diaries is focused on what happened in D.C. and what two people are saying about the Gov. while he’s been out of town.

Hello, federal government: State lawmakers visited Washington in an attempt to butter up federal leaders for monetary assistance amid California’s budgetary struggles.

And, Schwarzenegger is optimistic about the outcome.

Schwarzenegger has compiled a list of proposals totaling $6.9 billion that he said Washington owes California. Otherwise, he’ll recommend cutting or eliminating several programs that provide a safety net for the state’s poor and disabled.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer told reporters Wednesday that the state’s congressional delegation was already working on the majority of the governor’s requests, such as more federal funding for Medicaid.

Boxer emphasized that getting extra money for California would be part of a package designed to help all states because many face similar financial woes.

Generally, the federal government picks up half the cost of services provided through Medi-Cal. Schwarzenegger wants the federal government to increase its share to the national average - 57 percent. Such a change would save the state $1.8 billion annually.

It ain’t gonna happen: Chiming in first on this move across the country is Sherry Bebitch Jaffe, a senior scholar for USC’s School of Policy.

She writes in Fox & Hounds, that Schwarzenegger needs to be reminded “you never bite the hand that feeds you - even if you’re still hungry after being fed.”

Jaffe writes that Schwarzenegger’s tough demeanor won’t help California’s case and she references incidences when this was apparent.

“In typical Governator style, Schwarzenegger swings too high and too wide, invariably earning the enmity of Democratic legislators. After nearly seven years in office, governing hasn’t yet tamed his outsized movie persona. Schwarzenegger still draws on the tough rhetoric and bravado from his ‘Pumping Iron’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ days to pummel his political opponents.

For example, after a brief post-election honeymoon, he and the Democratic legislative majority deadlocked over his 2004 budget. Grousing to a friendly audience, the new governor lashed out at his legislative opponents. ‘They cannot have the guts to come out there in front of you and say, ‘I don’t want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests — the unions, the trial lawyers.’ … I call them girlie-men.”

Jaffe also points out that the $6.9 billion Schwarzenegger is requesting would allow him to leave office with a “balanced budget.”

Questioning lawmakers: In an opinion piece in The San Jose Mercury News by David Crane, a senior adviser for Schwarzenegger, he questions state legislators and points out what his boss has done to help the Golden State thus far.

Crane said Schwarzenegger shows support for education while cutting where it’s needed in his latest budget proposal.

“Two weeks ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced a budget fully funding education while cutting prison and other spending, and also delivered his final State of the State address in which he implored the legislature to reform the budget-breaking pension system put into place by lawmakers in 1999. The governor’s words were met with criticism by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as not reflecting California’s priorities. Which leads me to ask, just what are Mr. Steinberg’s priorities?”

Crane goes on to write that Steinberg issued “tens of billions of dollars of state debt to government employees on a gamble that the stock market would rise forever at a rapid rate,” which has now resulted in more pension costs.

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network. Follow her on Twitter or add her on Facebook.