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Governor chides California's Congress members over federal money

January 10, 2010 |  9:42 am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sharpened his criticism of the federal government in an interview televised this morning, taking aim at California’s congressional representatives for what he said was a failure to advocate for enough funding from Washington.

Schwarzenegger said in his State of the State address Wednesday and in unveiling his budget proposal Friday that the state would press Washington for what he says is its fair share of the taxes Californians pay to the federal government. He said California receives less back on every dollar it sends than other states.

“We also will inspire and push extra hard the California congressional delegation, the bipartisan delegation, because they’re not …. representing us really well in this case,” Schwarzenegger said on "Meet the Press" in an interview taped Saturday that aired on NBC today. “If you think about that, the Senate just voted for a healthcare bill that is saying basically that California should pay for Nebraska, so that Nebraska never has to pay any extra money.”

The state’s federal lawmakers had reacted negatively to Schwarzenegger's statements last week even before his more pointed criticism of them.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, head of the California Democratic delegation in Congress, said Friday that the delegation would do "what we can to support California." But she said Schwarzenegger "sounds like he’s trying to avoid responsibility. He’s the governor. We’re not. There has been a financial storm brewing in California for years. They haven’t dealt with it."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) disputed Schwarzenegger’s assertions that California isn’t getting its fair share, contending that the governor’s office is using outdated figures that don’t reflect the money the state has received under the federal stimulus bill. But she noted that the Democratic-controlled Congress is working on a jobs bill that could send more money to states.

"What I don’t think is helpful is it’s the federal government against the state government," said Boxer, who’s up for reelection this year. "We’re representing the same people here."

In his interview with NBC’s David Gregory, Schwarzenegger dodged a question about what he would do if the federal government does not come up with extra money to help plug the state’s $20-billion budget gap.

“I never really think so much about the Option B, because that’s a loser’s attitude,” Schwarzenegger answered, saying he would keep pushing until he succeeds.

He neglected to tell the national television audience that he does have an Option B: a “trigger” he included in his budget plan Friday under which he would eliminate the state programs providing welfare, children’s healthcare and home care for the elderly and disabled, among other cuts, if the federal government doesn’t come though. That plan is unlikely to be approved by state lawmakers, however.

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento and Richard Simon in Washington