Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday knocked voters for rejecting a slew of new taxes to close a $21 billion budget gap, saying residents insist on keeping expensive state services intact but do not want to pay higher taxes.

“When you ask them about the cuts, ‘Do you mind of we have to make an additional $6 billion in cuts?’ and it’s great, they say, ‘No, no, no, no, no, not in education,’ ” the governor said in Washington, a day after voters overwhelmingly rejected a slate of new taxes.

“And we say, ‘How about in health care?’ and they say, “No, I wouldn’t go after the vulnerable citizens,’ then we say, ‘Well, then we have to make some cuts in law enforcement,’ and they say, ‘Law enforcement, I want to keep that in place.’ People don’t know themselves where they want to cut, they just say, ‘Make the cuts’ and ‘You figure it out,’ ” he said with a smile, shaking his head.

Still, the governor said California voters delivered a “loud and clear” message, even as he warned that many do not understand the severity of the coming cuts, which he said will be “devastating to some people.”

“Don’t come to us for extra help — that was the message,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said after a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “And you know something. I appreciate that when you hear that from the people. It gives us a chance to go and adjust, and say ‘OK, we went in the wrong direction. Now let’s go in the right direction and let’s go do what the people want.’ ”

To close the budget gap, funds for education will be slashed by $5.3 billion and cut $2.8 billion from health and human services programs, including a $300 million cut to Medicaid. The governor also said the state plans to save money by transferring undocumented immigrants to federal facilities and transferring more non-violent offenders to local jails.

Already suffering newly imposed sales, income and vehicle taxes expected to cost taxpayers $12 billion, California voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a slew of new taxes, instead demanding that state politicians find alternative ways to pay for services.

“We saw loud and clear from the results that the overwhelming majority of people told Sacramento, ‘Go and do the work yourselves, don’t come to us with your problems,’ ” the governor said. ” ‘We have to go and sell off our motorcycles and our boats and our cars, second cars, and shrink, and have yard sales and garage sales in order to make ends meet — you do the same thing, the government, don’t come to us,’ ” he said.

The governor, who spent the last two days in Washington, attending a White House ceremony where President Obama announced new mileage requirements for U.S. vehicle, also blamed the special election process for defeat of his initiatives. “If you look at the history of special elections in California, it appears to me that they dont work. People just dont like being told to go back to the polls,” he said.

But Mr. Schwarznegger added that “the majority of people that came up to me didn’t complain so much about, you know, certain issues” like taxes. “They just said, ‘Why are you bothering me again? I mean, I’m busy, you take care of it.’ … I’m angry, I’m upset — and sure don’t come to us for more money.”

The governor returns to the state capital today to meet with lawmakers in the afternoon to discuss the state’s options.

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