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Schwarzenegger Picks a Diverse Transition Team

Times Staff Writers

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday tapped Donna Arduin, a veteran state budget director, to carry out his promised audit of California’s finances, a task she vowed would be accomplished before the new governor has to present his first budget in January.

The appointment of Arduin, Florida’s budget director, as his audit leader came as Schwarzenegger announced a broadly bipartisan transition team including a conservative political opponent, veterans of the last Republican gubernatorial administration and Democrats, one of whom is San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a favorite target of the GOP.

Arduin was granted a leave from her current job by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. She previously served as acting director of New York state’s budget office and worked as chief deputy director of Michigan’s Office of Management and Budget -- all under Republican governors.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference at a Santa Monica hotel, Schwarzenegger said Arduin will help him accomplish his first goal as governor: “Open up the books and let the people look inside.”

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“Let the sun shine in,” the incoming governor said. “There is a lot of waste that we will find.”

Democratic legislators have warned Schwarzenegger that they believe his task will be more difficult than he anticipates. They note that much of the budget is committed to various state programs and that lawmakers already made deep cuts last year.

Schwarzenegger said he hopes to work with the Legislature to reform state spending, but he reiterated his intention to bypass that body and put his financial plan on the ballot if he does not find political support in Sacramento.

“If I can’t get my things through, I will go directly to the people,” he said.

Arduin, who said she is volunteering in her new post, told reporters that she planned to travel to Sacramento after the news conference and would begin work immediately.

“The first thing the governor asked me to look at was the size of the problem, the size and the scope,” she said. “He asked us to go in and audit the budget and tell him what’s there.”

Schwarzenegger’s budget pronouncements are captive to an extremely tight time frame: his first budget is due at the printers’ in late December.

Arduin said she was confident that the task could be accomplished before Jan. 10, the constitutional deadline for the new governor to submit a budget.

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“We intend to work through the transition time and then the first couple months of his being governor,” she said.

Arduin’s appointment was highlighted as Schwarzenegger announced a 65-member transition team, culled from a variety of disciplines, to help guide his move into the governor’s office.

The diversity and prominence of the team -- which includes people as different as Bill Simon Jr., the former Republican candidate for governor, Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina and Brown, the liberal Democratic mayor of San Francisco -- speaks to the resources and clout of the new governor.Symbolically, as well, it underscored Schwarzenegger’s campaign promise to cast a wide net as he seeks advisors.

“You will see people that are to the left, people that are to the right, and people that are to the center,” Schwarzenegger said of the group.

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“You will see people all the way from Bill Simon all the way to the other side to Willie Brown.”

Schwarzenegger said he wants the transition team to help make recommendations on the “best and the brightest people in the state to come and work ... in my administration.”

But some political analysts said the very makeup of the group suggested many of its members would not play central roles in shaping the new administration.

“I would be surprised if this group is anything other than the wrapping of the package,” said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State.

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“This sounds to me more like an advisory group than a group that’s going to roll up its sleeves and deal with upwards of 2,000 positions and supervise a statewide budget. In the end, it will be a small cadre of officials who will be making the major decisions.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said that the new governor would call on the various members of the transition team for advice about people to bring into the administration, but that there were no plans to hold a meeting of the entire group because of the difficulty of assembling them all in one place.

The transition team put together by Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), an ally of President Bush, includes state lawmakers, current and former mayors, a former U.S. secretary of state, law enforcement officials, a movie director, a labor leader, a farmer, a billionaire, a tax reform advocate and a literary agent.

Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is on the team, as well as Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which several years ago at Schwarzenegger’s request investigated his father’s ties to the Nazis.Along with a variety of business leaders, including Sun- America founder and philanthropist Eli Broad and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman George Kieffer, Schwarzenegger tapped John Hein, political director of the California Teachers Assn. That organization had a famously contentious relationship with Gov. Gray Davis.

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The governor-elect also invited officials from across the political spectrum, including Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg on the Democratic side, and GOP leaders including state Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Gerald Parsky, President Bush’s top political operative in California.

Despite the bitter partisanship that dominated the two-month recall campaign, several Democratic officials said they were happy to move beyond that rancor and collaborate with Schwarzenegger.

“It’s a very positive sign about wanting to build a meaningful bipartisan government,” Hertz- berg said. “We’re not wallflowers. There’s going to be a strong Democratic voice on this team.”

Longtime political strategist Robin Kramer, who most recently served as transition director for Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, said she was startled to receive a call from Dreier asking her to be part of Schwarzenegger’s team.

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“The fact that this fellow and his team reached out to a diverse group of people is a good sign, a promising sign,” said Kramer, a Democrat.

Schwarzenegger himself called Brown, a former Assembly speaker, to be part of the transition team.

“When you get a call from the governor-elect, it doesn’t matter what party he or she is a member of,” said Brown spokesman P.J. Johnston. “You have to respond in what’s in the best interest of the people of California.”

Hahn said he would try to protect local governments from the financial fallout of upcoming state budget decisions.

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Los Angeles officials are particularly concerned about Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut the vehicle license fee, an important source of revenue for the city. Some officials are considering whether to request a state ballot measure to provide a steady stream of revenue for police services in cities including Los Angeles

“I plan to bring the perspective of local government to the team, and to work to ensure that local government’s ability to provide crucial services -- such as police and fire -- is not jeopardized,” Hahn said in a statement.

The mayor does not yet have a meeting scheduled with Schwarzenegger, said Hahn spokeswoman Julie Wong.

Not every political perspective will be represented on the transition team. Although Schwarzenegger invited aboard Simon, who endorsed his candidacy after dropping out of the election, he did not extend a welcome to state Sen. Tom McClintock, the only other prominent Republican who remained in the race on election day.

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The incoming governor instead selected Beth Rogers, a Carpinteria farmer and businesswoman who has expressed interest in challenging McClintock for his Senate seat next year.

John Stoos, a top aide in McClintock’s campaign, said the senator was spending several days relaxing and would not comment on Schwarzenegger’s early moves.

“That’s up to the governor-elect to make those decisions,” Stoos said.

Times staff writers Daryl Kelley, Patrick McGreevy, Peter Nicholas and Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Governor’s challenges

* Screening and appointing a new staff and Cabinet that is willing to begin immediate service.

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* Writing a budget, which must be sent to the printer by late December and presented to the Legislature by Jan. 10.

* Meeting campaign promises.

* Defusing the public anger with government that helped lead to the recall in the first place.

* Dampening hostility and reaching out to a Democratic-dominated Legislature.

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* Setting a tone for the new administration.

* Picking up work on the hundreds of important issues pending before state agencies and commissions.

* Doing all this without much money, since the Legislature has not set aside funds for an interim office and clerical help. (Davis, for example, got $650,000 for his transition in 1998.)

Los Angeles Times

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