A look at 7 years of Schwarzenegger's legacy

The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses soldiers during a visit to Wellington Barracks in central London on Thursday Oct. 14, 2010 accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron,unseen.(AP Photo/Leon Neal)

December 31, 2010 7:09:37 PM PST
The closing credits are about to roll on the tenure of Gov. Schwarzenegger and a look at what worked and some of his mishaps.

Schwarzenegger rode into office on a wave of optimism in 2003, with California voters hoping the political outsider could fix Sacramento.

"Every governor proposes moving the boxes around to re-organize government. I don't want to move boxes around. I want to blow them up," he said on January 6, 2004.

At first, the actor-turned-politician brought Hollywood with him, using stunts to get his point across: the flood of red ink to illustrate Sacramento's penchant to overspend and smashing a car to show how much he hated the car tax. His popularity paved the way to early victories that include bringing down workers comp costs and getting approval for economic recovery bonds. But then, things turned south when lawmakers missed the deadline for Schwarzenegger's first state budget and he resorted to name-calling.

"If they don't have the guts, I call them 'girlie-men.' They should go back to the table and fix the budget," Schwarzenegger said on July 17, 2004.

Most budgets since then also missed the mark, breaking the record twice for the latest spending plans ever, which led to more name-calling.

"It's like Kindergarten up there, where they point fingers at each other," Schwarzenegger said on November 26, 2008.

But in the spirit of compromise when it was clear the recession wasn't going away, to end one of the longest budget stalemates, Schwarzenegger abandoned a campaign promise to never raises taxes, agreeing to the largest tax hike in California history.

"If you think that you can do this budget without any increase in revenues, you have a big math problem," he said on February 18, 2009.

Some of the biggest cuts ever to public schools and social programs also were part of the package, making him unpopular. That bi-partisanship was short-lived when attempts to re-balance the budget failed and the state had to pay its bills with IOUs for the third time in state history.

"It's a sad story. They've known for a month now that the deadline was June 30th," Schwarzenegger said on July 2, 2009.

Schwarzenegger's relationship with voters was just as hot and cold as it was with lawmakers. In his early days, he offended nurses who protested proposed changes to job regulations.

"Special interests don't like me because I'm always kicking their butts," he said on December 7, 2004.

That lead to a huge rejection of his first attempt in 2005 to reform government through his favorite avenue, the ballot box, rather than working with the Legislature.

"If I could do another Terminator movie, I would have Terminator travel back in time to tell Arnold not have a special election," he said on November 10, 2005.

Voters, though, forgave him enough to not only re-elect him but help him cement his legacy. They approved a $50 billion bond package to improve infrastructure and jumpstart high-speed rail. And Schwarzenegger was the only governor in decades to be able to hammer out an agreement to address the state's water needs.

"We set a very bold vision for the future," he said on November 9, 2009.

And Californians finally approved the political reforms he says will help elect more centrist politicians through open primaries and district lines drawn by citizens.

"I had no idea it would be as difficult, that it would take that many years to have to go through all kinds of battles, minefields and defeats," Schwarzenegger said on December 4, 2010.

Schwarzenegger, though, believes his biggest victory during his tenure was a landmark global warming law that dramatically cuts greenhouse gas emissions in California.

In the end, he didn't blow up the boxes. Since 2003, California's bond debt tripled, the state workforce jumped 10 percent and Californians paid almost a $1,000 more in taxes last year.

When Schwarzenegger hands the reigns over to Jerry Brown, he's indicated he may write a book and continue efforts to fight global warming and could even end up with a position in the Obama administration.