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Inside Politics

Schwarzenegger lobbies for more federal funds

'Collectinator' goes to Washington


California Gov. Schwarzenegger made a campaign vow to become the "Collectinator" for his state.
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Faced with an $8 billion budget shortfall, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to rally his state's congressional delegation Thursday to stand together to "get everything possible" for the state.

"We are not asking the White House, and we are not asking the federal government or anyone in Washington to bail us out," Schwarzenegger said. "We are not asking to go and get a handout. We just want our fair share."

Schwarzenegger said his administration is grappling with problems "that were created in California by Californians." But he said California has some "unusual problems" that he considers a federal responsibility, such as the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.

He said California spends $1 billion to hold undocumented immigrants caught in the state because "the federal government is not keeping the borders straight." And he is asking the federal government to go easy on the state in a coming round of military base closings -- the last round, in the early 1990s, cost the state 99,000 jobs, he said.

The actor-turned-governor came to power in the 2003 recall vote that ousted former Gov. Gray Davis, whose administration was crippled by severe budget shortfalls. During the recall campaign, Schwarzenegger vowed to become the "Collectinator" on behalf of his cash-strapped state.

A Republican, he campaigned for President Bush in Ohio in the late days of the 2004 election. But he said Thursday he is not seeking to cash in on any favors.

"I hope that they do not give us extra money because I campaigned and did that one campaign stop, because if they would, there's something wrong with our system," Schwarzenegger said.

Besides, he said, "What I don't want to see is that I stopped at one stop that maybe we get an extra billion dollars -- and (New York Gov. George) Pataki stopped 15 stops for Bush and gets $15 billion more."

California leaders have long complained that their state -- the country's -- most populous gets a smaller share of federal money, based on the amount contributed to federal coffers, than almost any other state. State Democrats estimate California gets only 79 cents for every dollar it sends back to Washington.

California's House delegation holds major leadership posts on both sides of the aisle; the chairmen of the House Appropriations, Armed Services, Ways and Means and Homeland Security committees hail from the Golden State, as does House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Members of the 53-member House delegation said the meetings were bipartisan and productive.

"We knew going into this meeting that we were not going to walk away with a check from the federal government," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a leading Democrat in the state's House delegation. But she said the bipartisan meetings resulted in "a good working plan to pursue this further."

Schwarzenegger planned to meet as well with the state's two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats.

But while Democrats have offered their help, some lawmakers in Sacramento have warned the governor and his GOP allies in Washington that the trip will be considered a failure unless they return with new pledges of federal aid.

Pelosi, a San Francisco congresswoman, said she hoped Schwarzenegger would help make the case that states need more help to pay for federal mandates on programs like Medicaid and the No Child Left Behind education act.

"What we say about California is good for all of the states, to make sure that states receive the money to match the mandates that the federal government is foisting upon them," she said.

A source also said the governor is to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to discuss Medicare reimbursement. And he plans to meet privately with Chellie Pingree, the president of Common Cause, to discuss Schwarzenegger's proposal to reform the state's redistricting process.

The governor wants political lines, for both state legislative and congressional districts, to be drawn by a panel of retired judges, rather than by the legislature. Lawmakers from both parties have been cool to the idea -- including U.S. Rep. David Dreier, a key backer of Schwarzenegger in his gubernatorial bid.

Pelosi said she has no concerns about Schwarzenegger's redistricting plan, but questions why it needs to be addressed before the next census, which would normally precede redistricting.

"It sounds like Texas-style to me, but perhaps that's not his motivation," she said -- a reference to the GOP-led redistricting of Texas' congressional seats last year that was blamed for the losses of four Democratic seats.

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