It was a gift no girlie man would give.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has warned lawmakers they need to act boldly and make some tough budget choices, sent Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg a metal sculpture of bull testicles.
It was intended as a gag gift but Steinberg, a Democrat, was not amused and returned the football-sized gift with a terse note about the seriousness of the ongoing negotiations.
The account was given by sources within the Capitol who were familiar with the situation. They said they were not authorized to speak on the record because it was considered a private matter between the Austrian-born Republican governor and the Senate leader.
According to the sources, Schwarzenegger's gift was in response to an earlier gag gift he had received from Steinberg: a package of mushrooms after the governor called Democrats' budget proposals, which included tax increases, "hallucinatory."
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear confirmed the two had exchanged gifts but declined to discuss the details.
"We never talk about the governor's private gifts," he said. "Senator Steinberg sent the governor a gift and the governor responded in kind. They maintain a great relationship and will work together to fix the budget."
Steinberg's spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, also declined to discuss the testicle sculpture. She agreed that the governor — who once called Democrats "girlie men" — and the Senate leader have a good relationship.
"We've got more important things on our plate right now than to waste any more time on such trivial matters," Trost said.
California faces a $24.3 billion budget shortfall.
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