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The Orange County Register
Jul 24, 2004 - 01:00 AM

by HANH KIM QUACH

Budget battle cries

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hits shopping malls and pizza kitchens to take his budget fight to the people, rhetoric and reality often part company.

"What's going on is he's getting out in front of the public and making these outrageously hypocritical statements about the influence of special interests. The real truth is that Schwarzenegger is like all the other politicians chasing the money,'' said Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation of Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "He's playing the political game in Sacramento but telling the public something completely different.''

But Tim Hodson, executive director for the Center for California Studies in Sacramento, said Schwarzenegger's sometimes incendiary comments - such as calling lawmakers who weren't going along with him "girlie men'' one week ago - is to be expected.

"Rhetoric for a rally, by definition, is going to be more general and more inflammatory. It's the nature of the forum. It's not surprising that Gov. Schwarzenegger may step over the line,'' Hodson said.

Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the governor needed to use the tools to get to the goal: a bipartisan budget.

He had to show legislators that he could get the public engaged.

"At the time, the governor was referring to legislators who were resistant to compromise to work toward a bipartisan solution. The good news is that we are making progress,'' Thompson said.

Even though lawmakers received few phone calls on the matter, "thousands of people turned out over the weekend and when legislators see that people are using their most valuable asset - which is time - and participating in this process, it shows them that people are paying attention to what's happening in Sacramento.''

Many lawmakers, including Democrats, are glad to see that the governor is connecting and engaging Californians on an issue as obscure as the budget.

But some worry that his celebrity and general rhetoric take away from the real budget problem: the fact that the state spends more than it takes in.

Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina Del Rey, is one of the few lawmakers in Sacramento that is openly criticizing how the budget pushes billions of costs into the future and could leave a $10 billion deficit in two years.

"It's frustrating because how many people know that the budget spends $4 billion more than it did last year?'' Bowen asked.
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Contact the author at: (916) 449-6046 or hquach@ocregister.com




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