WASHINGTON — Likening California's budget troubles to an earthquake, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday defended his decision to raise taxes and said his party's leaders in Washington should be "team players" with President Barack Obama.
And if that means violating the GOP's principles, he said, so be it.
"They should make an effort to work together and to find what is best for the people, because by derailing everything, it's not going to help anybody, and it creates instability and insecurity," Schwarzenneger said in an appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
Reminded of his 2003 vow to not raise taxes, the governor said that "I hate tax increases" but that he made it clear he would never sign a pledge not to raise them.
"Why? Because I said, if there's an emergency, I want to have the options to raise taxes if there's an emergency," Schwarzenegger said. "Right now, you have to admit, we have a fiscal emergency. We have a financial crisis. We have a housing crisis, all of those things. And we had a $42 billion deficit. That's the same as having an earthquake or some other disaster. It's an emergency. And under those circumstances, we can raise taxes."
He noted that even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he was California's governor.
Schwarzenegger, who's in Washington for the winter meetings of the National Governors Association, said the national GOP must "listen to the people" if it hopes to regain the White House and majorities on Capitol Hill.
In California, he said, he went along with a majority of voters, who wanted to resolve the state's deficit with tax increases and spending cuts.
"The Republicans there were not in touch with what the majority of people want to do in California," Schwarzenegger said. "And the same is nationwide. You've got to listen to the people. If the nation is screaming out loud, 'We need health care reform. We want to have universal health care. We want to have everyone insured. We want to bring the costs down. We want everyone to have access.' I mean, that's what they want; that's what you do."
Listening to the people, he said, is more important than "getting stuck in your ideology."
"Even though it maybe is against your principles or philosophy, you still have to go, because that's what the people want you to do," the governor said.
Noting that Republicans and Democrats alike were putting the heat on Schwarzenegger back in Sacramento, Stephanopoulos asked the governor: "Is D.C. the safest place for you this weekend?"
Schwarzenegger replied: "When you're in the center, you get attacked from the left and you get attacked from the right. And this is a good sign, actually, because that means that you're in the right place."
Unlike most Republicans, Schwarzenegger is touting Obama's economic stimulus plan, which is expected to create nearly 400,000 jobs in the state in the next two years.
Schwarzenegger said he would accept the stimulus money from the state of any governor who opposes the spending plan. But he acknowledged that "a lot of my colleagues look at this differently."
"I look at it in a more optimistic way, and I feel very strongly that I think that President Obama right now needs team players," Schwarzenegger said.
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