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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the state of the state address Tuesday in the Assembly chambers.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the state of the state address Tuesday in the Assembly chambers. David Paul Morris/Getty Images
By his own admission, the agenda California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled in his fourth state of the state speech Tuesday night is "ambitious."
The recently re-elected Republican told state lawmakers he wants to extend health insurance to every Califorrnian, tackle global warming, borrow tens of billions of dollars for new construction projects and reform the way the state draws legislative districts.
He wants to do all that in one year.
"We are not waiting for politics," Schwarzenegger said, standing without crutches despite his recently broken leg. "We are not waiting for our problems to get worse. We are not waiting for the federal government. We are not waiting, period. Because the future does not wait."
Schwarzenegger echoed the themes of bipartisan cooperation he stressed in his Jan. 5 inauguration speech. He referred only in broad strokes to his plan to extend health insurance to everyone in the state. It's been praised for its scope, though there was also something in it for everyone to hate. But he acknowledged the Democrats have their own proposals and sounded ready to deal.
"I have always said you can never have too many ideas," he said. "So all ideas, regardless of origin, are still on the table."
One issue where Schwarzenegger and the Democrats who control the legislature are already in synch is the urgency of combating global warming.
"We hear so much about climate change," Schwarzenegger said. "One area where we definitely need the climate to change is the national government's attitude toward global warming."
Schwarzenegger has ordered California bureaucrats to come up with regulations for reducing the carbon content in automobile fuel by 10 percent. It would be the first program of its kind in the world.
"California's taken the leadership in moving the country beyond debate and denial to action," the governor said.
Apparently, the voters like action. In November, they re-elected Schwarzenegger in a landslide, while also approving around $40 billion worth of infrastructure bonds that he campaigned for.
Now he wants to borrow another $40-some billion for new schools, new dams and especially new prisons. California's are so overcrowded, they're in danger of being taken over by the federal court.
"We build more prisons or we release criminals," Schwarzenegger warned. "We build more prisons or the court takes money from education and health care and builds the prisons itself."
The governor's speech got generally positive reviews, at least from the Democrats.
"I was looking for one thing from the governor, and he gave it to me: a sign that he wants to continue to work in a bipartisan way to solve major problems in California," said Democrat Don Perata, the Senate leader.
But Republicans remained cautious about backing Schwarzenegger's big proposals. And Sam Aanestad, a Republican senator from Northern California, said the governor has largely left members of his own party out of his bipartisan coalition.
Aanestad cited the bill last year to limit greenhouse gas emissions:
"There was not one Republican vote that everyone says was a big bipartisan effort," Aanestad said. "Not one Republican vote in either House, yet the Republican governor signed it. That's not bipartisanship."
But it has been enough to make Schwarzenegger look like a uniter and a peacemaker, and it's now what the voters expect from him.