- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger today will announce a major tax-cut proposal in a bid to garner conservative support for his California gubernatorial campaign.

“He will call for repeal of the tripling of the car tax that [Democratic Gov. Gray] Davis instituted,” Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and co-chairman of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign for the Oct. 7 recall election, told The Washington Times last night.

“He is going to be strongly conservative, clearly demonstrate that he is his own man and stand up to Warren Buffett,” said Mr. Dreier, referring to the liberal Democratic billionaire who is a personal friend and top economic adviser to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

Republicans initially welcomed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s candidacy as a winning way to add star power to a party that has recently suffered heavily in statewide elections. But the movie action hero’s cozy relationship with Mr. Buffett, along with his support for legal abortion and homosexual rights, have alienated many California conservatives.

“The worry today is that Arnold Schwarzenegger will rewrite and reinvent what it means to be a conservative and what it means to be a Reagan Republican,” said the Rev. Lou Sheldon, who leads the California-based Traditional Values Coalition.

Conservative concerns were little heeded when an early poll showed the “Terminator” as the instant front-runner in the race to replace Mr. Davis, whose popularity has sunk to record lows in a state burdened with a $38 billion deficit.

Mr. Schwarzenegger was criticized for being vague on the issues, and then the latest poll showed him trailing the unglamorous lieutenant governor, Democrat Cruz Bustamante.

“That poll came out three days after [Mr. Buffett] called for repeal of [property tax limits], and I think there is a direct relationship with his drop in the polls,” said state Rep. Ray Hanes, a conservative Republican.

The bodybuilder-turned-actor was forced to call a “summit” meeting of his economic aides and key California businessmen. It was at yesterday’s summit that Mr. Schwarzenegger decided to push for reduction of the state’s auto tax, a proposal that Mr. Dreier said will be announced at a press conference today.

California conservatives had gritted their teeth over Mr. Schwarzenegger’s liberal social positions, contenting themselves with the Austrian-born actor’s professed admiration for the free-market principles of economist Milton Friedman. But they were deeply outraged by Mr. Buffett’s criticism of Proposition 13: The 1978 referendum that reduced and capped property taxes was a keystone of the “Reagan revolution.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger will repudiated Mr. Buffett’s tax comments at today’s press conference, Mr. Dreier said late yesterday. The candidate will say Mr. Buffett’s sole role in Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign will be helping put together state bond issues — an important consideration, given the looming budget deficit.

A pledge to repeal Mr. Davis’ car-tax increase could help boost Mr. Schwarzenegger back into the front-runner’s spot in the crowded recall campaign. Being No. 1 is important, as his backers had hoped that Mr. Schwarzenegger’s popularity would help force his top Republican rivals — businessman Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock — to drop out of the race in the name of party unity.

In addition to detailing his economic plans at the press conference, Mr. Schwarzenegger today will also begin airing campaign ads.

“We the people are doing our job, working hard, raising our families and paying taxes,” Mr. Schwarzenegger will say in his first ad, according to a script released to the press yesterday. “But the politicians aren’t doing their job.”

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