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Schwarzenegger names members of transition team

California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced some of his transition team Thursday, saying the first thing they would do is conduct an audit to find the gravity of the state budget deficit.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced members of his transition team Thursday, saying the first thing they would do is conduct an audit to find out how bad the state’s deficit is. He also called on Gov. Gray Davis not to make more appointments or sign legislation in the waning days of his administration, although Schwarzenegger admitted it is Davis’ right to do so.

“I WOULD LIKE IT really if he doesn’t sign any more bills, as far as that goes,” Schwarzenegger said. “But we will be working on that, and I’m absolutely convinced that when the governor says that he wants to have a smooth transition, that we will in fact have a smooth transition. And I am looking forward to that, and the process has already begun.”

Schwarzenegger, who will take office as soon as the results of Tuesday’s recall election are certified, said his first priority will be investigating the state’s finances. The Republican said the state’s budget shortfall for next fiscal year may have risen to at least $10 billion.

“One of the first things we have to do is audit. Open up the books and let the people look inside. Let the sun shine in,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at a Santa Monica hotel.


Schwarzenegger also introduced Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., who is heading his transition team, and the two said they hoped to select a broad group of Democrats and Republicans to help them.

The first name they announced was the team’s finance director, Donna Arduin, who most recently was budget director for Florida and is known as a fiscal conservative.

Schwarzenegger has vowed to immediately repeal the recent tripling of the state’s car tax and to preserve educational programs as he trims the budget.

In the meantime, Davis met Thursday afternoon with his cabinet members, congratulating each one and asking that they cooperate with Schwarzenegger’s team.

“They may need our help, and if they ask, I want you to provide it,” said Davis, who did not take questions from reporters. “Our service is not complete until we’ve done everything humanly possible to prepare the next administration for their assignment.”


In his concession speech Tuesday, Davis promised to Schwarzenegger “the full cooperation of my administration during the transition,” Davis said. “That’s the obligation of one governor to another; we’re going to do it.”

But Davis has continued to make judicial and other appointments during his last days in office. Davis has about 100 pending appointments to make, 15 of which require Senate confirmation, his spokesman Steve Maviglio said Thursday.

Another 21 appointments already are pending before the Senate. Majority leader John Burton said he is considering calling the upper house back into session to act on the appointments before Davis, like Burton a Democrat, leaves office.

Re-elected last November with less than 50 percent of the vote, Davis fell victim to a groundswell of discontent in a state that has struggled with its perilous financial condition.

Even after becoming only the second governor to be recalled in U.S. history — Lynn Frazier, governor of North Dakota, was recalled in 1921 — and the first California governor pried from office, Davis still has a sense of humor. On Friday, he is to read the Top 10 list on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”


In his first post-election news conference on Wednesday, Schwarzenegger outlined his priorities, pledging inclusion and to devote all of his energies to taking the Golden State in “a new direction.” Schwarzenegger said he would move to rescind the state’s automobile tax, as well as the controversial legislation enabling illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses.

Davis recently signed the legislation into law. Schwarzenegger called the licensing matter “a bogus issue — we’re going to repeal that, because I don’t believe in it.”

Schwarzenegger also pledged to work with the federal government on problems particular to California, including environmental and immigration matters, and made a provocative promise to the citizens soon to be under his charge: “I will not raise taxes.”


Schwarzenegger said his celebrated status as an actor will soon be officially on hiatus. “There’ll be no time for movies or anything else,” he said. “My mind is not on movies — at all.” He also said that his businesses would be placed in a blind trust for his tenure as governor, a tenure he said he approached with hope.

“I am very optimistic about working together with the Democratic leaders in Sacramento,” Schwarzenegger said. “What I want to bring to Sacramento is leadership. The people of California have voted. ... They want a new direction; ... they want change. The legislators up here have gotten that message last night.”

“With the campaign now behind him, Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger has the obligation and responsibility to lay out how he will put our fiscal house in order and repair the economy, and it’s going to be a tall order,” state Treasurer Phil Angelides said.

The state’s economy will be among the most vexing challenges facing a Schwarzenegger administration. He said he would shortly announce plans for dealing with the state’s budget deficit, estimated at about $8 billion.

“We don’t really know what the current operating deficit is,” he said. “It could be that our operating deficit is $20 billion.”

Whatever the actual deficit, it would grow by $4 billion if Schwarzenegger makes good on his promise to immediately repeal this year’s tripling of the car tax.


Schwarzenegger’s first day as governor-elect was a mix of the sweetly ceremonial and the everyday. “I worked out as usual,” said the former bodybuilder. Schwarzenegger also received congratulatory calls from both President Bush and former President George Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and former South African President Nelson Mandela, whom he called “one of my heroes.”

Schwarzenegger said the current President Bush “said he would do everything possible to help California to help me achieve my goals ... I’m looking forward to working with him and asking him for a lot of favors.”

White House officials left open the possibility that Bush would meet with the governor-elect next week in California. The president is expected to make two fund-raising stops there next Wednesday for his re-election campaign before heading to Tokyo, the first stop on an Asian trip.

Among other perks he received in his first day as the state’s chief executive was from one of his daughters. “My daughter brought me coffee this morning,” Schwarzenegger said. “She whispered in my ear, ‘Mr. Governor, your coffee is ready.’”

The economy is the top priority among Schwarzenegger’s brain trust. “Policies need to be put into place that can help keep jobs and economic growth in the state,” Dreier told NBC’s “Today” show.


Asked if Schwarzenegger would, as he promised, confront allegations that that he had groped a number of women over decades, Dreier said Schwarzenegger wouldn’t “ignore” them. But Dreier said he also sensed that “most Californians want to move ahead.”

Some Democrats have raised the possibility of a new election to withdraw the recall vote, but Davis himself repeatedly said “no” when supporters at his concession speech Tuesday night urged him to push for it.

Schwarzenegger crafted a Hollywood ending to one of the most extraordinary political melodramas in the nation’s history.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, the 56-year-old action star offered to “extend the olive branch of political reconciliation” to his former opponents and threw down a challenge to those comfortable with governmental gridlock: “For the people to win, politics as usual must lose.”

Schwarzenegger must work with Democrats, who are a majority of both houses in the Legislature and hold all statewide offices except his newly won governorship.


Democrats were quick to offer support. Schwarzenegger spoke Wednesday with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and state Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson. All promised to work with the new governor, who will be sworn in by mid-November, while urging him to get to work on his programs.

“I believe I will have a very good personal relationship with the governor-elect,” Burton told reporters. “How we do politically is a very different thing. Tip O’Neill and Ronnie Reagan had wonderful personal relationships and they fought over policy, as we should. Hopefully, we will find enough common ground to get the state out of this mess.”

NBC’s David Gregory at the White House,’s Michael E. Ross, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.