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Schwarzenegger Promises 'Smooth Transition' - 2003-10-09

California governor-elect Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger promises a "smooth transition" as he prepares to take the helm of the most populous U.S. state. The star-turned-politician outlined his plans in his first news conference since he won a recall election against Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's first full day after his victory was filled with congratulatory phones calls from President Bush and international figures such as South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday afternoon, the Republican governor-in-waiting took questions from reporters as he outlined his plans for office. He says he will commission an audit of California's finances, to clear up questions about an $8 billion deficit projected for next year.

"What we have to do is open up the books, do the audit and find where the waste is," he said. "And then we have to just go through step by step. But in the every near future, I will be announcing those details of what I'll do."

The governor-elect says he will quickly rescind a recent hike in California car fees. The 300 percent hike costs each California driver hundreds of dollars a year. Democrats are resisting, but Mr. Schwarzenegger says he is confident they can reach an agreement.

Critics question where he will find the four billion dollars in revenue that the hike was to generate, and ask how he can keep his promise of balancing the budget without raising taxes. Mr. Schwarzenegger says specifics will come later.

High on his agenda is a planned meeting with President Bush, possibly next week, when the president is expected to stop in California en route to Asia. Mr. Schwarzenegger notes that only .77 cents of every California dollar paid in federal taxes comes back to the state in the form of federal assistance. He hopes Mr. Bush can help boost funds flowing to California from Washington.