Bakersfield's Ashburn among 6 punished by GOP over budget vote

Bakersfield's Ashburn among 6 punished by GOP over budget vote
SACRAMENTO (AP) — While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the national airwaves to defend the largest tax increase in California history, the six Republicans who stood by him received harsh reprimands from their own party Sunday.

At its twice-annual convention in Sacramento, the California Republican Party adopted a measure to deny party funding for the 2010 election to the GOP lawmakers who voted last week for a compromise budget solution to the state's $42 billion shortfall.

Party activists who have lost admiration for Schwarzenegger over the years said the resolution sends a strong message to politicians that there will be consequences for breaking their no-tax pledge.

"If you take a no-tax pledge and you vote for taxes, then you are being divisive because you know exactly what the consequences are going to be," said Jon Fleischman, a party vice-chairman from Southern California who introduced the measure.

Three lawmakers each from the Senate and Assembly broke ranks last week to give Democrats and Schwarzenegger the necessary votes for passing the budget deal.

Schwarzenegger, who was in Washington, appeared Sunday on national news shows defending California's budget package, which includes $12.8 billion in tax hikes, $15.1 billion in cuts, billions in borrowing and measures intended to stimulate the state's economy.

The package includes ballot measures, the most contentious of which will be a cap on state spending. If voters approve the cap, most of the tax increases will remain through the 2013-14 fiscal year. If it fails, the taxes will last only two years.

"When you have a $42 billion deficit, it is more important to solve the problem than to stay with ideology," Schwarzenegger said on CNN's "State of the Union." ''And I think there are some people that stick with ideology, but I wanted as a public service to do what is best for the state of California."

Fiscal conservatives have vowed to fight further tax increases, even if it means opposing a Republican-negotiated spending cap.

During the party's general meeting, a curtain behind the podium was pulled away to reveal a poster listing the GOP lawmakers as "The Six Losers," but it was quickly covered up again.

The six include Assemblymen Anthony Adams of Hesperia in Southern California; Roger Niello of Fair Oaks, a suburb outside Sacramento; and Mike Villines of Clovis in the Central Valley; as well as Senators Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, Dave Cogdill of Modesto and Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria on the central coast.

An earlier version of the measure had contained stronger language, calling for a censure. But Sunday's toned-down measure was approved swiftly and without debate. It did not directly target the governor.

The resolution reflects the GOP's efforts to re-energize its ranks by pushing a no-tax agenda throughout the three-day convention.

In a prerecorded message, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich urged the party faithful to fight to keep more money in people's pocketbooks.

Both Republican gubernatorial front-runners — former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner — said taxes during a recession was the wrong move. Poizner on Sunday launched a Web site protesting the taxes.

Senate Republicans went so far as to toss out their leader, Dave Cogdill, in the middle of the budget stalemate over his willingness to compromise on a package of cuts, borrowing and tax hikes.

On Sunday, Adams, a freshman lawmaker from Hesperia and one of the six lawmakers who supported the budget package, said he hopes voters will understand that temporary tax increases are a "necessary evil" needed to thaw the state's frozen finances.

Adams said he did not receive funding from the state party in his last campaign and does not yet know how the reprimand will affect his chances for re-election.

"I'm very sensitive to my party's need to do something cathartic," Adams said in a telephone interview. "Now we need to focus our attention on building up Republicans and remembering who we're fighting against."

Not all Republicans felt the party needed to take a zero-tolerance approach that could further push the party into an ideological corner.

"It's mean-spirited," said Helen Najar, a delegate from the Los Angeles area. "I think it's time to move forward. At the end of the day, we had six legislators that didn't have a lot of options."

Najar, who wore a "Whitman in 2010" sticker, said an open primary process would enable more moderates to get elected.

On ABC's "This Week," Schwarzenegger was asked whether he owes his predecessor, former Gov. Gray Davis, an apology for running a campaign to lower the car tax only to raise it again. A motion to lampoon the governor by having the GOP party apologize to Davis for its role in his 2003 recall failed in the resolutions committee Saturday.

"So do you owe Gray Davis an apology?" asked host George Stephanopoulos.

"No, absolutely not ... because remember one thing: When the last time they had the crisis in 2003, nothing was accomplished," Schwarzenegger said. "Now we have this crisis, we got the legislators together ... and met in the middle."