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BB SCHWARZENEGGER HONG KONG THROW.JPGGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's forthcoming trade mission in Asia seemed like an obvious opportunity for Democrats to attack the GOP governor, given that he will be on a six-day overseas trip while the state lacks a budget and IOUs loom in the horizon.

And given the references to Schwarzenegger's "vacation" coming out of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office last month and today, it seemed like attacks were inevitable.

But Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez softened their approach Tuesday following a 90-minute meeting with Schwarzenegger and GOP legislative leaders. Pérez even offered an economic argument for why the governor should go.

The change in tone seemed to be a budget peace offering.

"We live in the modern times, and if the governor is there or here, we can engage in important conversations," Pérez said. "Our objective is to try to get to resolution as quickly as possible. One of the things we've said is, we want to make sure we have budgetary solutions that make sense for the economic prosperity of the state. So the last thing we want to do is be an impediment to securing the trade relations and the benefit of those relations at the same time."

Steinberg acknowledged that it would be easier to solve the budget in face-to-face talks, but he added, "Look, we'll make anything work. As John said, with technology, we can get the job done either way."

Democrats have floated a new version of their tax swap to raise as much as $1 billion in the current fiscal year.

Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, said Republicans still have to examine the new proposal. But he added that any change would not take effect until 2011, in which case the plan would raise significantly less money than Democrats had hoped for. If the plan does not take effect until 2011, it would raise $250 million in the current fiscal year, according to Steinberg's office.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger throws shirts into the crowd at a California Grown event in Hong Kong on Nov. 19. 2005, the last day of his six-day trade mission to China. Sacramento Bee file photo/ Brian Baer



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