Schwarzenegger Talks Budget & Water During Fresno Visit

By: Liz Gonzalez

Governor Schwarzenegger returned to Fresno Thursday morning, assuring Valley families he is committed to helping reach a budget deal with state legislators.

He said the budget deficit has now ballooned to over $26.3 billion dollars, from $24.3 billion. He says part of the reason, lies in the legislature's refusal to undertake reforms.

"I warned them action was necessary," he said, while speaking at the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce. "They failed to seize the opportunity to get rid of government waste. They sent a message to the state's families, 'we want YOU to make the sacrifices.'"

The governor said nearly 80 percent of California's welfare recipients aren't meeting simple work requirements.

"Yet year after year, they're getting their paychecks and they're getting their benefits. All we want to do is just root out that fraud and abuse."

He added that in-home support services programs are also riddled with fraud. "The legislature rejected simple safeguards which are necessary to root out these problems, like fingerprinting, background checks and so on, to prevent people from getting benefits in multiple counties or under multiple identities," Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger also addressed the Central Valley's Westside water shortage, telling families he's fighting for them to get water as early as possible. He said he approved emergency funds for food and assistance; he signed and passed on a request for a federal emergency declaration.

The governor's visit Thursday comes less than 24 hours after he declared a fiscal emergency. He called the legislature into a Proposition 58 special session to work on the budget.

"Until we get the job done, I will not sign any legislation unrelated to the budget that is not urgent or absolutely necessary," he said.

He also imposed a third day of furloughs for state employees, effective July 10. As a result, state offices will be closed the first, second, and third Friday of the month. Those closures will affect all state offices, with the exception of state hospitals, prisons, the California Highway Patrol, and CAL-FIRE.{}{}