Saturday, February 12, 2005

California Republicans rallying on Schwarzenegger agenda

Let the elections of 2005 begin!

Bring on a fair apportionment - TERMINATE the Gerrymander:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb 12 (Reuters) - California's Republican loyalists said on Saturday they are ready to rally behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ambitious political agenda that includes ballot measures Democrats vow to defeat.

Republicans meeting at the party's state convention in Sacramento said they will eagerly fight by Schwarzenegger's side if he asks voters to support this year's agenda through ballot measures, a sharp contrast to a September convention when party officials feared key conservative members would not embrace the socially moderate Hollywood icon.

But Schwarzenegger has in recent public appearances rarely missed an opportunity to stress he stands with conservatives on fiscal matters and that he has ruled out tax increases to balance the state's budget. California faces a $9.1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year starting in July.

"When he first came onto the scene, I was skeptical ... but I think he's proven himself," said R.Q. Williams of Napa County's Republican Central Committee. "He hit the nail on the head, pointing out that what we need to do is rein in spending, not worry about how to figure out taxes and new fees."

At a dinner on Friday night, Schwarzenegger launched into a blistering attack on California's Democrat-led legislature to get rank-and-file Republicans to support potential ballot measures to overhaul the state government.

Democrats, he said, are "spending addicts" who are standing in the way of his agenda, which includes a plan to partially privatize the state's public pension funds. The largest and third-largest U.S. pensions funds are in the state.


His plan mirrors White House aims for the Social Security system.

Democrats, public employee unions and pension fund officials oppose the plan, which Schwarzenegger says is needed so the state can rid itself of costly financial obligations to the funds. Schwarzenegger has threatened to put the plan to voters if lawmakers do not seriously consider it.

The plan would strike at the heart of one of the state Democratic Party's most significant sources of support.

"The train has left the station and there's three things they can do," Schwarzenegger said. "One is they can join and jump on the train. Number two, they can go and stay behind and just wave and be left behind, or number three, they get in front of the train and you know what happens then."

Republicans gave Schwarzenegger raucous cheers, reflecting a new confidence after years of being shut out in California's political wilderness.

"There's a euphoria that we're relevant again," said U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa. "The Republican party was doing very well in Washington, and was irrelevant in California for a number of years. It was also divided and leaderless. Now they are united with a tremendous leader."

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