Gov. Schwarzenegger's Sinking Fortunes
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Here in California, it's been a tough week for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two months ago, he unveiled the most ambitious and expensive public works program in the state's history. But that program has hit a major roadblock, one that Schwarzenegger will have to find a way around before this fall. That's when voters will decide whether to give him another term in office.
John Myers of member station KQED has more.
JOHN MYERS: For a while Wednesday night, it appeared Arnold Schwarzenegger might score a victory in the Democratic controlled California legislature.
Unidentified Woman: The clerk will open the roll. All members vote who desire to vote. All members vote who desire to vote.
MYERS: The State Assembly agreed to $23 billion worth of bonds for repair of aging levees and dilapidated classrooms. But the state's Senate refused to go along. And at midnight the deadline expired to get those bonds on the June 6 ballot. Thursday morning, Schwarzenegger tried to portray what happened as merely part of the process, a process he says he still enjoys.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I did not come to Sacramento because I expect things to be done easily. If I want to do things more easily, I would stay on a movie set, I would make my $20 million a movie, have my 40-foot trailer, people serving me day and night and telling me that I'm the greatest. Okay, that's easy. That's on a movie set.
MYERS: But in his current role, Schwarzenegger no longer controls the script. Last year's failed special election on issues like budget reform cost him much of his public support in the polls. This year his infrastructure plan has been attacked by Republicans for racking up too much debt and by Democrats for not including things like affordable housing.
Republican political strategist Dan Schnur says Schwarzenegger can no longer rely on the formula that led him to victory three years ago.
DAN SCHNUR: He still can be reelected as a centrist, but the average Californian doesn't see him as a reformer, doesn't see him as an outsider, doesn't see him as a representative of a different type of politics anymore.
MYERS: Schnur, who worked for California's last moderate Republican governor, Pete Wilson, says Schwarzenegger was right to focus on the state's crumbling infrastructure, and he says even though the proposal won't be on the June ballot, it can still provide a strong political platform.
SCHNUR: Another way of describing swing voters in California is to refer to them as commuters. And if Schwarzenegger can run for reelection standing in front of traffic jams, promising that he can pass or will pass a ballot measure designed to alleviate California's traffic problems, that's a pretty powerful message.
MYERS: But first Schwarzenegger has to get his infrastructure plan out of the state legislature, a tricky maneuver in an election year in which many of the majority Democrats would like to make it harder, not easier for him to win reelection.
For NPR News, I'm John Myers in Sacramento.
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