California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to build support for proposals to get the state's massive deficit under control. He is taking his case to the people, despite opposition from his fellow politicians.
Mr. Schwarzenegger is in the midst of a four-day campaign to enlist public support for his recovery plan. He is urging audiences in California to demand that their legislators support his two proposals. One would cap state spending. The other would authorize a $15 billion bond to fill the budget gap.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a former bodybuilder and actor, was elected in a special recall election in October. Tuesday in the city of San Diego, he held the first of a series of rallies with supporters.
"You've already shown your power by flexing your muscles on last October 7 when you voted me into office," he said. "Flex your muscles again. Let your voices be heard again. We can win this."
Dramatizing his point later in San Jose, he held a large replica of a credit card emblazoned with the words "State of California." He said it symbolized the state's addiction to spending. He bent the card in half and discarded it.
Wednesday in Los Angeles, he spoke with restaurant patrons. "All I want you to do is call your legislators," he told them.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wants California's Democratic-controlled legislature to place the referendum items on the state ballot next March, to be approved or rejected directly by the voters.
Some Democrats oppose the spending cap, which they say will cut essential services. Some Republicans say the cap is not strict enough. California lawmakers say they expect the new governor will be flexible on this issue.
Some in both parties oppose the bond measure, which they say will leave the state with a long-term debt that it must repay with interest. Democratic state treasurer Phil Angelides, a likely candidate for governor in 2006, says California should borrow less, and instead raise taxes on the rich.
"The wrong thing to do is to saddle our children, our grandchildren, with debt with decades to come because of our inability to come to a decision about what's right for California," he said.
Mr. Schwarzenegger is reluctant to raise taxes. Instead, he wants immediate spending cuts of nearly $4 billion. The cuts would limit some public health benefits.
In order to get his proposals on the March ballot, California lawmakers must agree by Friday to put them to the voters.