Schwarzenegger leaves office with huge state deficit

11:24, January 04, 2011      

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Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger made history seven years ago to become California Governor as a first generation immigrant but left office Monday with a record high state deficit and a near-record low approval rating as governor.

Californians placed high hopes on Schwarzenegger when he won the recall election to become governor of the golden state, expecting him to make miracles to lead California out of the deteriorating economy and huge deficit.

Former Governor Gray Davis was recalled because of the bad economy and financial situation. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, made history to replace Davis, a Democrat in a state traditionally had more Democratic voters, and the state assembly and senate were also controlled by Democrats.

Davis lost the position as governor with a record low approval rating of 22 percent. Ironically, Schwarzenegger who was elected with sky-high approval ratings seven years ago, stepped down with an approval rating of 23 percent, only one percent better than his disgraced predecessor.

What's worse, Schwarzenegger left his office with a record high deficit of 28 billion dollars, more than double the deficit his predecessor Davis created.

The Mercury News analyzed in an editorial that Schwarzenegger, as a charismatic actor, won office vowing to remove the power of special interests, end deficit spending and replace political gridlock with "action, action, action." If he made progress in those arenas, it's news to Californians.

But Sacramento and Hollywood turned out to be as far apart politically as they are culturally, the editorial said.

Schwarzenegger's greatest strength -- his ability to think big and speak powerfully -- was in some ways a handicap: He dramatically raised Californians' expectations, but he failed to lay the groundwork in the Legislature to achieve his goals. So there is no Hollywood ending to his governorship.

The editorial said Schwarzenegger didn't come close to delivering on his biggest promise: balancing the budget, without using gimmicks or tricks, so that California could live within its means. Besides the huge deficit, the pension problem Davis essentially created has been barely addressed, though Schwarzenegger did try valiantly to make inroads.

According to the editorial, he tried to do many good things, in fact. Were it not for that massive deficit, his legacy would be very different.

Schwarzenegger was praised for his landmark environmental laws which are not only visionary but also good for the state's economy, giving California a leg up on green technology.

The passage of AB 32 to curb greenhouse gas emissions with strong support from business organizations like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group was a stirring example of what can be done with a bipartisan approach to a looming crisis.

The editorial also mentioned his resolution of California's workers' compensation crisis. The cost controls he and the Legislature put in place have saved businesses an estimated 55 billion dollars.

Schwarzenegger's successes in political reform will also be significant if they live up to their promise and allow more moderate candidates to win office, according to the editorial.

Over opposition from both parties, he helped persuade voters to take the drawing of legislative districts out of the hands of lawmakers and place it with an independent commission, according to the editorial.

But success in Sacramento is impossible without building relationships in the Legislature. Schwarzenegger had no political base to advance issues, and that is deadly, the editorial said.

Californian voters accepted Schwarzenegger because the superstar is not a conservative Republican. He was a Republican and fiscal conservative who also supported gay rights and gun control, which are positions usually held by Democrats.

But because of that, Schwarzenegger became a man without a country. His fellow Republicans reviled him for working with the majority Democrats and Democrats in the state legislature felt like they could now confront him.

Schwarzenegger can play a hero in the Hollywood movie, but in the state government, he is not a hero. Californians, even many Republicans, lost hopes of him.

Schwarzenegger defended himself in his final weekly address before Jerry Brown's swearing-in ceremony by saying he was leaving office with his head held high despite the state's recent troubles.

"I came to California four decades ago with absolutely nothing," he said. "Because of this state welcoming me with open arms, I gained absolutely everything ... The opportunity to give something back as governor has been an immigrant's dream come true," he said.

"History will be the final judge of my administration's record," he added. "But I leave office proud of what we have accomplished."

Source: Xinhua

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