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Harsh criticism for budget, Schwarzenegger

July 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Both the California budget plan and Governor Schwarzenegger faced harsh criticism Wednesday.Assembly Republicans have decided they will not withhold their votes with this budget compromise. So they, and other lawmakers, will be approving $1.2 billion cuts to prisons, without details spelled out in the bill.

The budget compromise negotiated by five state leaders is back on track, one day after it was on the verge of collapse.

Assembly Republicans had heard the cuts to corrections meant 27,000 inmates were going to be released early. Now they won't decide how to reduce prison population until next month. The move increases the chances the scheduled budget vote goes smoothly.

"We want to do everything we can to make everyone feel comfortable because that component is a very important component in the budget because otherwise the next choice is early releases, and we don't want to do that," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California).

Despite the latest changes to the budget plan, interest groups still don't like it. They're even more upset over the governor's latest video on his Twitter account, seemingly insensitive to the hardships the spending cuts will have.

In the 27-second video, the governor appears to be trying to lighten the mood when he holds a large knife and jokes about autographing cars slated for auction as a way to raise money for the state.

"We talked about making some cuts in the budget, getting rid of some of the state cars, and then all of a sudden you come up with the great idea, 'why not just sign the cars since you're a celebrity governor.' Sign the cars and sell them for more money. That's exactly what we're going to do," Schwarzenegger said in the video.

The video has received mixed response.

"I would much rather laugh than cry, so I'm OK with it," said Darin Chase.

But not everyone appreciates the humor.

"No, I don't think it's the time to be joking when people left and right are losing jobs and the economy, you know, is basically in the toilet," said Eileen Speeg.

"I just thought it was in poor taste because I think we're I a bad time economically and, I mean, I know there's, there's a time for levity, but I don't think this is one of those times," said Joyce Guy.

Some say the governor simply used the knife as a symbol.

"I think first of all you must accept Arnold Schwarzenegger as the person that we know him to be and his background in movies, then realizing that he used the knife as a symbol to indicate that he's cutting across the board," said Gary Orth.

The governor's Press Secretary Aaron McLear released the following statement in response to the Twitter message:

"I don't know why he is holding a knife. The message is in what he is saying not what he is holding in his hand."

The video was posted online at a time when Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers are proposing drastic cuts to close the $26 billion budget gap. The budget plan makes deep cuts in education, health care and social programs that serve the poor, elderly and disabled.

"It was outrageous that at this time of incredibly serious cuts, that the governor's making light by waving a knife around," said Anthony Wright, Health Access. "You almost wonder if he still thinks he's in a movie."

The governor says he was just trying to add some fun to an otherwise serious job.

"There's other people who say that you've got to have a little humor, and that's me. You sent a governor to Sacramento, not 'El Stiffo', like some of the past were. But you sent someone that is a little more entertaining," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

Kids visiting Sacramento Wednesday also had budget cuts on their mind. One gutsy seventh grader, Ashante Thrower Wommack, confronted one of the leaders in the hallway about the quality of her education.

"These schools are getting cuts and some of those schools mean a lot to us," said Thrower Wommack to Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee.

"That's one of the reason why we fought hard to not suspend Proposition 98, and made sure what scarce resources we had could be delivered to the classrooms," replied Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo).

When asked what she thought of Blakeslee's answer, Thrower Wommack said, "I don't think it was all there, but at least I got an answer."

Lawmakers will vote on the budget plan on Thursday. It must be approved by both legislative houses.

The deal is almost certain to draw legal challenges. State workers have threatened to sue over unpaid furlough days, and city and county governments stand to lose billions in funding.

Eyewitness News Reporters Amy Powell and Nannette Miranda contributed to this report.

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