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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Q&A: Task ahead for Arnie
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Movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new role, that of governor of California. The Terminator star has proved his Hollywood magnetism at the polls, but a difficult task lies before him. BBC News Online looks at his policies and the challenges ahead.

What does the governor of California do?

As governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger's remit is massive. California is the richest state in the US and one of the world's biggest economies. Mr Schwarzenegger will be the highest executive authority in the state government.

He will decide: which legislation is signed into law (although if he vetoes legislation this can be overridden by the state assembly); who heads the agencies that implement policy; who sits on the California courts; and ensure that the state government runs smoothly.

The governor is also in charge of submitting the state budget. Pulling together a budget plan by a 10 January deadline will be one of Mr Schwarzenegger's most pressing tasks. State legislators failed to pass a budget for the financial year beginning on 1 July. While it is not the first time this has happened, it was made worse by the sheer scale of the state's budget deficit, which is projected to be $38bn over two years.

What are the main challenges facing the new governor?

A budget crisis, projected to be $38bn over two years, is pushing California to the brink of financial disaster. On top of this, unemployment in the hi-tech centre of Silicon Valley is more than 8%. California has been losing jobs to neighbouring states such as Utah and Arizona.

Mr Schwarzenegger has promised to slash massive and "irresponsible" state spending, which rose by about 40% under his predecessor Gray Davis's five-year tenure. Revenues during that period rose by only 25%.

This was mainly because the internet bubble that California gave the world boosted the state's revenues, but when it burst it deflated the state's income in a similarly spectacular fashion.

Mr Schwarzenegger and his team must now decide on a course of action.

What sort of team has he put together?

Mr Schwarzenegger has assembled an experienced team of advisers to help work out an economic strategy. It includes Warren Buffett, a celebrated, billionaire investment guru, as his chief economic adviser, and former secretary of state George Schultz.

The 72-year-old Mr Buffett is known as the "Sage of Omaha" and has developed a cult-like following among investors. He has in the past been identified with Democratic causes and has loudly denounced President Bush's tax cut plans as a social injustice.

What are Mr Schwarzenegger's policies?

Central to his plan is a pledge to make cuts to the state budget. There were promises to "sweep" the Democratic government from power, but he offered few specifics as to how he would tackle the complex problems facing the state.

He promised to freeze spending and audit the state's $99bn budget. He promised to woo business and jobs back to California by reforming investment and employment regulations. He pledged not to raise taxes - but with the caveat "never say never".

While vowing to attack the budget deficit head-on, Mr Schwarzenegger said it was impossible to draw up detailed plans until the promised audit was completed.

Mr Schwarzenegger did make one concrete proposal: to repeal the recent hike in car tax. It was one of Mr Davis's plans to deal with the budget deficit by raising taxes - especially tripling car duty - that triggered the petition for a recall election.

Political analyst Professor Elizabeth Garrett of the University of Southern California said the Hollywood star had been successful because he had exploited a feeling of voter anger surrounding Mr Davis.

"He tapped into the anger and Davis became the focal point of that anger because he's such an unattractive and uncharismatic politician," she said.

"In terms of policy we know very little about [Schwarzenegger] and what he really plans to do, but the voters really don't seem to care," she said.

His 10-point plan for his first 100 days in office as stated on his website is as follows:

  • Repeal tripling of car tax
  • Freeze spending and launch auditing of state budget
  • Call special session and make spending cuts to address current imbalance
  • Get our fair share of Indian gaming revenue
  • Renegotiate state employee union contracts to get better deal for taxpayers
  • Pass jobs package with real workers' compensation reform
  • Submit 2004-2005 budget that closes deficit and restructures inherited debt
  • Streamline bureaucracy and send more money to the classroom
  • Repeal SB-60, the law that gives driver's licences to undocumented immigrants
  • Pass open government amendment and ban fundraising during budget process




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