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'What happened to the anti-tax governor?'

November 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
With Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger looking to raise the sales tax on everything from cars to theme parks, both sides of the political aisle are asking: What happened to the anti-tax governor?State lawmakers called back to Sacramento for a special session are poring over the governor's plan that calls for increasing sales and other taxes, plus cuts in some services. In Sacramento, the protests have already begun.

California's budget problems partly contributed to the ouster of then-Governor Gray Davis. Some people wonder whether things are really any different now.

California college students are tired of budget cuts to education that inevitably force their tuition to jump higher.

"My education was cut short because I could not pay tuition any longer. I could not stand the student fees going up, up and up," said protestor Andrew Peake.

But with a souring economy, high unemployment and a foreclosure crisis, the governor already announced that a combination of new taxes and deeper cuts are the only way to keep government services running.

"We have a dramatic situation here, and it takes dramatic solutions and immediate action. We must stop the bleeding," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday.

Critics say Governor Schwarzenegger hasn't really changed California's budget problems since riding into office five years ago on a platform of ending Sacramento's spending addiction.

"If he would have held spending back when he got in, like he said he was going to, he wouldn't have a problem right now," said Ted Costa, People's Advocate Inc.

Political watchers, though, are quick to point out Sacramento's ways are not that easy to fix, and that the "outsider" underestimated the task at hand.

"I think in 2003, he thought: 'Well, I'll go up there, make a few speeches, and it'll all be fixed,'" said political analyst, John Syer, Ph.D. "He knows better now. This is a hard thing to change."

Syer also said no leader could have anticipated the global financial crisis.

Government spending plans are often crafted on the amount of taxes expected to come in.

"You can never foretell the vigorous nature of the economy, and how much revenue it produces," said Syer.

Still, Schwarzenegger's supporters had high hopes once he arrived in Sacramento, budget deficits would leave.

"We still have the same problem: overspending," said Ted Costa. "We still have the same problem, that we're afraid of the special interests."

Governor Schwarzenegger is essentially a man without a party. He has a strange relationship with fellow Republicans, while Democrats don't always embrace his GOP ideas. The bottom line is that means that change in Sacramento is painstakingly slow.


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