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Protesting UC students get face time with Gov. Schwarzenegger

March 1, 2010 |  6:56 pm

As five college students were arrested at the Capitol on Monday for protesting budget cuts to the University of California, three students got some face time with -- and a civics lesson from -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The students, who were not among those arrested, were invited to meet with Schwarzenegger in the governor's office, where a handful of reporters looked on.

The governor, who was surrounded by top aides as well as UC President Mark Yudof, blamed lawmakers, the state’s tax system and the power of labor unions for California’s budget woes and subsequent cuts to higher education.

“I don’t have more money because they are refusing to fix the system,” Schwarzenegger said of state legislators.

Telling the students, “We are so glad you are here,” Schwarzenegger insisted that “we are on your side of the fence.”

Schwarzenegger told the students about the proposal he'd made in January for a constitutional amendment to prevent California from spending more on prisons than universities. He blamed the prison guards' union for driving up costs at the state's lockups.

"They are a force," he said of the union. "They are very powerful."

After the meeting, Dani Haber, a UC Berkeley student, said the face time with the governor was “overall a positive experience.” But, after a day full of sit-downs with lawmakers and the governor, she came away with one distinct feeling: “Everyone points their fingers at someone else.”

Victor Sanchez, a student at UC Santa Cruz, said the governor’s willingness to prioritize higher education was important, but Sanchez questioned some of the civics lessons Schwarzenegger delivered.

“He said we don’t have a revenue problem, but then he said [revenues] went down 27%,” Sanchez said. “Where is the messaging?”

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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