Schwarzenegger Under Fire for Sell-off Plans

Friday, 15 May 2009 10:47 AM

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SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with a massive budget crisis, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has outlined major budget cuts and plans to sell some of the state's most treasured landmarks.

Schwarzenegger unveiled proposals Thursday to replenish California's state coffers and counter an estimated budget shortfall of $15.4 billion.

Plans include drastic budget cuts, as well as the sale of the Los Angeles Coliseum, which hosted the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, and the 157-year-old San Quentin state prison, which houses more than 5,000 inmates.

"To solve our immediate cash crisis, we simply cannot avoid deep and painful cuts in spending," Schwarzenegger said.

"Some of these solutions are things I would never have considered in the past but, unfortunately, our state could be in a worst case scenario if the propositions fail."

But the new plans, which came less than a week before a vote in special elections that include five provisions to mend the state's budget woes, have faced strong criticism.

"Whoever made the decision to throw this on the table five days before an election made a boneheaded decision," Zev Yaroslavsky, president of the Coliseum commission, told the Los Angeles Times.

"People are not as foolish as some politicians think they are."

Schwarzenegger has said that, if the state fails to vote through his tough measures on Tuesday, the deficit will increase to $21.3 billion.

He also has warned that his contingency plan would see thousands of lay-offs, shorten the public school year by at least seven days, as well as include healthcare cuts to about 225,000 children and the release of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

"Californians have a right to know the truth about the size of the problem our state is facing," he said.

The recession has battered California with nose-diving revenues. The state, global center of high technology and the movie industry, has a $1.8 trillion economy that generates about 13 percent of the United States' gross domestic product.

© 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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