- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger, attempting to redeem himself with alienated conservatives, said yesterday he has no intention of raising taxes if elected governor of California.

“I will not raise taxes,” the Republican said at a press conference. But the star of the “Terminator” movies said he couldn’t pledge “never” to boost taxes because unforeseen circumstances could force such action on any governor.

He also took a swipe at Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, saying the state’s budgetary red ink is “not a problem of Californians being undertaxed. It’s that politicians have overspent.”

He emphasized a commitment to find other ways to eliminate California’s $38 billion budget deficit, including reforming the state’s workers’ compensation program. He said the program has been particularly burdensome on businesses and helped drive many to other states, drying up some tax revenue that once helped keep the state solvent.

While Mr. Schwarzenegger was addressing the press yesterday, a federal judge in Los Angeles denied an American Civil Liberties Union request to delay the recall election. The ACLU argued that voters in Los Angeles and five other counties would be “disenfranchised” because they would have to use obsolete punch-card voting machines instead of new electronic devices ordered by a federal judge.

In the Oct. 7 special election, Californians will cast two votes — first on whether to end Mr. Davis’ term as governor, then to pick his replacement from among more than 100 hopefuls. The second vote would be moot unless a majority vote “yes” on the first question.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, 56, has angered many conservatives since announcing his candidacy. Among other offenses to conservative orthodoxy, he explained at one point that inducing businesses to return was a goal of his because the state needed more tax revenue to finance social programs.

Mr. Schwarzenegger went out of his way yesterday to assure voters that he would not attempt to repeal the 1978 cap on property taxes, known as Proposition 13, which is immensely popular with California property owners. Schwarzenegger economic adviser Warren Buffett suggested Proposition 13 should be repealed to boost revenue.

Flanked at yesterday’s press conference by Mr. Buffett, 82, and another of his top advisers, George P. Schultz, 72, Mr. Schwarzenegger joked about his missteps, saying he had warned Mr. Buffet privately that if he ever mentioned Proposition 13 again, the billionaire investor would be required to do 500 push-ups.

At another point, Mr. Schwarzenegger told reporters to note carefully that Mr. Schultz, who served in Cabinet positions under three Republican presidents, was standing to his right and Mr. Buffet to his left. Many conservatives had expressed concern that the bodybuilder turned action hero had advisers only to his left.

Yesterday’s performance drew praise from some conservatives who had been moving away from Mr. Schwarzenegger toward two other leading Republican candidates, businessman Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock, both running on conservative platforms.

“My only concern is, can Arnold give enough red meat to consolidate conservatives in the next 49 days,” said Shawn Steel, former state Republican Party chairman and early supporter of the petition drive to force the recall election.

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