For the first time since his gubernatorial campaign last fall, Arnold Schwarzenegger formally launched a weekend bus tour of the state and, in the process, demonstrated how much the governor has changed his tune -- literally -- since he took office 103 days ago.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Schwarzenegger held a bus tour and rallies in which the movie star brandished a broom to “clean house” in Sacramento, promised to “terminate special interests,” and gave speeches to the Twisted Sister anthem of anger, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
On Friday, the governor spoke soothingly of the need for bipartisan cooperation as he stood in front of dozens of representatives of interest groups, from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. to the California Coastal Protection Network, which have endorsed his campaign for Propositions 57 and 58.
His entry and exit music was to U2’s less than angry “Beautiful Day.” (Aides suggested that he might switch to Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” this weekend, with its line “A little more bite and a little less bark, a little less fight and a little more spark.”)
“No party can take on this challenge and fix all the problems that we have,” the governor said. “But the Democrats and the Republicans together can fix all the problems that we have. This is exactly what we are doing now.”
Throughout the event at Universal Studios, Schwarzenegger and other speakers touted the hundreds of endorsements garnered by the two propositions -- some from usual political opponents, such as the United Farm Workers and Western Growers Assn.
Schwarzenegger, joined by the campaign’s Democratic co-chairman, state Controller Steve Westly, ended the rally by boarding a red bus decorated with the likenesses of both men, a list of endorsements and the words “ROAD TO RECOVERY EXPRESS.”
But the politicians appeared to exit the bus before it left the Universal Studios lot. The tour begins for real this morning at a San Fernando Valley middle school before making stops at malls in Bakersfield and Fresno.
Proposition 57 would authorize as much as $15 billion in long-term bonds to pay off debt that accumulated as a result of the state’s budget deficits in the last three years. Proposition 58, a constitutional amendment, would require the state to enact a balanced budget each year with a rainy-day reserve. The two are linked. If either fails to gain majority support, both fail.
Neither Schwarzenegger nor Westly discussed the measures in any detail. Instead, they talked about the comeback by Proposition 57 in opinion polls.
“They said it cannot be done,” said Schwarzenegger, who noted, a little wistfully, that Universal was where he had filmed “Conan the Barbarian” more than 20 years ago. “They said Proposition 57 and 58 will not win because people are afraid of borrowing money -- $15 billion. But then we educated the people.”
No one has run a “no” campaign against 57 and 58, although a handful of politicians on the left and right have denounced the measures. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Democrat who has called for tax increases and short-term borrowing in lieu of Proposition 57’s long-term borrowing, issued a statement Friday calling Schwarzenegger’s weekend plans a “Deficit Borrowing Bus Tour.” The treasurer said the interest costs that the state would pay on $15 billion in long-term bonds would be better spent on other state services.
“California voters face a basic choice,” he said. “We can slough our problems into the future or we can honestly and squarely confront our budget problems in a way that shares our burdens fairly and strengthens our state for the future.”
With Schwarzenegger emphasizing bipartisanship, he seemed to have delegated the role of populist firebrand to his friend and fellow actor Rob Lowe, who introduced the governor. “We elected Gov. Schwarzenegger to lead and, with his most important initiatives, he asks us to help,” he said. In response, Schwarzenegger praised Lowe as a “great sex symbol.”
The Propositions 57 and 58 campaign has largely been conducted in front of relatively small, invitation-only audiences, but members of the public were invited to Universal City on Friday. Some were a bit restless; Schwarzenegger was late arriving from a morning union rally he attended in Costa Mesa, and about 50 members of the crowd left almost as soon as he appeared on stage.
For those who stayed, the day had the feel of a marketing debut, with the campaign distributing T-shirts, stickers and placards. Teachers for 57 and 58 wore school-bus yellow, firefighters wore red, “working families” purple and taxpayer advocates dressed in dark blue.
One of those in attendance, Jose Bonilla, wore a green “Environmentalists for 57 and 58" T-shirt and held a black-and-white “Police for 57 and 58" sign. Bonilla is president of the Arleta Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve liked the governor ever since I first went to Planet Hollywood,” Bonilla said in a reference to the theme restaurant chain in which Schwarzenegger was an investor before its bankruptcy. “They had great pizza there.”