California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a massive $222 billion program to rebuild his state's infrastructure, and he promised cooperation with rival Democrats. The Republican governor, whose approval ratings have dropped dramatically in the past year, appealed to voters Thursday to give him another chance to solve California's problems. The former star known for tough-guy onscreen roles has softened his message.
An apologetic Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to work together with Democrats, with whom he has had increasingly rocky relations. He says he has been in too much of a hurry to revamp California's government, overcoming the gridlock that both parties admit has nearly crippled the state at times. California governors, both Republicans and Democrats, have faced competing demands to reduce excessive spending while maintaining essential services, from education to police and fire protection.
In November, Mr. Schwarzenegger went directly to the voters with four ballot measures, including one to limit public spending and another that would have curbed the influence of public employee unions. Voters soundly rejected all four proposals.
"I didn't hear the majority of Californians when they were telling me they didn't like the special election," he said. "I barreled ahead anyway when I should have listened. I have absorbed my defeat and I have learned my lesson."
Mr. Schwarzenegger took power in a special election in 2003, promising bipartisan cooperation. Thursday, in his annual New Year's address outlining conditions in the state, he again promised to work with the opposition Democrats. He said voters had sent a clear message: cut the warfare, cool the rhetoric, find common ground and fix the problems together.
He proposed spending more than $220 billion over the next 20 years for improvements to public schools, congested highway and transit systems, and eroding flood-control systems. The state would finance the improvements in part by issuing the most expensive bond package in its history. The bonds must be approved by the voters, and the governor may face resistance over his spending plans from conservatives within his own party.
In a televised response, Democratic leaders agreed that California's government suffered from what a spokesman called debilitating partisan division. California assembly leader Fabio Nunez said that if the governor is serious about forging consensus, the Democrats will meet him half-way.