Wednesday, October 8, 2003

LOS ANGELES — California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday pledged to cut the car tax, not raise any other taxes and work to help “undocumented immigrants” gain legal status.

“I said it before that I will not raise taxes, and I will not raise taxes,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in his first press conference since he began his victorious campaign for governor.

He has yet to get specific about his plans for the state, which is staggering under a budget deficit estimated from $8 billion to $20 billion.

He did say, however, that he would negotiate new contracts with American Indian tribes that pay much lower taxes in California than in neighboring states for casino operations.

“As soon as I am sworn in as the governor, I will sit down with the Indian gaming tribes so we can figure out how we can get additional funds,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “And hopefully we can work out good compacts with the tribes.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger also said he would repeal a law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses. Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed the legislation shortly before he was recalled in Tuesday’s election.

The governor-elect said he supported a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, that would grant temporary working permits to allow illegal immigrants to travel to and from the United States and loosen the requirements to apply for visas.

“I want to make all undocumented immigrants documented and legal in this country,” said the Austrian-born actor. “It’s all part of the package.”

U.S. Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and co-chairman of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign, will be introduced today as head of the gubernatorial transition team.

Schwarzenegger aides described the job as “organizational” and said Mr. Dreier still would be able to attend to his congressional duties in Washington.

Campaign sources said the team also will include George Schulz, secretary of state during the Reagan administration. Democrats charged during the campaign that Mr. Schwarzenegger would bring in operatives of former Gov. Pete Wilson, but sources said the team will not be “a bunch of old hands” and likely will include several Democrats.

Mr. Schwarzenegger took a congratulatory call yesterday from President Bush, and the governor-elect said Mr. Bush “promised me he would do everything possible to help California.”

“So I’m looking forward to working with him and asking him for a lot, a lot of favors,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said.

“The president said he was proud of the race he ran, and he looked forward to working with him,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan added in Washington.

White House officials left open the possibility that Mr. Bush would meet with the incoming governor when he visits California for two fund-raising stops Wednesday before he leaves on series of foreign trips.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said he spent much of his first day as governor-elect talking with Democrats in Washington and Sacramento, including the powerful leaders of California’s legislative chambers — Herb Wesson of the House and John Burton of the Senate.

“I think we can accomplish a lot together,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “It’s all about leadership. The people of California voted against the system as they see it now. The Legislature got the message last night that the people of California want change.”

Veteran Democratic political consultant Joe Cerrell said Mr. Schwarzenegger may find it tough to deal with the Democrat-dominated Legislature.

“They gave Gray a hard time,” Mr. Cerrell said. “They’ll probably give Arnold a hard time. They’re not being vindictive. We have three separate and equal branches of government.”

Mr. Cerrell suggested that Mr. Schwarzenegger hire more former staffers of Ronald Reagan, who worked well with Democrats as California governor despite his conservative leanings.

“They’re still around,” Mr. Cerrell said. “Let him go find these people, because you know what, [Mr. Reagan] had a good relationship with those people.”

The Schwarzenegger campaign was hoping for a clear victory Tuesday night to legitimize his election. He got what he wanted.

More Californians cast ballots for Mr. Schwarzenegger than they had for Mr. Davis in his two gubernatorial election victories.

“We have a mandate for change,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh. “It was a people’s movement. It was a revolt.”

With 99.5 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Schwarzenegger received 3,665,074 votes, or 48 percent of the electorate. Forty-five percent, or 3,521,809, expressed support for Mr. Davis by voting “no” on the recall.

“The rejection of Gray Davis and the left is what this election is all about,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and a key Schwarzenegger adviser. “Heaven help those who aren’t willing to make changes with Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s vote total was 2.2 million more than Mr. Davis received in his re-election win 11 months ago, even though Democrats had a 1.3 million edge over Republicans in registered voters.

“I think the election went better than their wildest dreams,” said Bill Whalen, a political research fellow at the Hoover Institution. “You can’t say that it was an invalid election in any way. This will probably prove to be the most heavily participated governor’s race in the state’s history.”

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