By Adam Tanner
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 8:15 PM
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Calling California a modern-day Athens and Sparta, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday his state should led the nation and the world by curbing greenhouse gases, requiring health insurance for all and offering other policy innovations.
In his fourth annual state-of-the-state address, Republican Schwarzenegger called for $43.3 billion in new bond spending for schools, prisons and other infrastructure -- on top of a record $42.7 billion approved by voters two months ago.
"We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta," Schwarzenegger, who played Hercules in his first film role, told legislators at the capitol. "Not only can we lead California into the future ... we can show the nation and the world how to get there."
"We can do this because we have the economic strength, the population, the technological force of a nation-state," he said in the address that sets out his annual agenda.
As an Austrian-born American, the former bodybuilder and actor cannot run for U.S. president, but the speech highlighted his desire to influence national and even international public policy.
Last year, he backed pioneering legislation to cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 -- even as the administration of Republican President George W. Bush has taken a skeptical view about global warming.
On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger said he would sign an executive order mandating a reduction of the carbon content of transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020.
"I propose that California be the first in the world to develop a low carbon fuel standard that leads us away from fossil fuels," he said. "Let us blaze the way, for the U.S., for China and for the rest of the world.
"California has the muscle to bring about such change," the former Mr. Olympia said. "I say use it."
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR ALL
Calling the health care system a "sick old man," Schwarzenegger also called for insurance for all Californians. Although he has repeatedly ruled out new taxes, the governor's plan foresees a payroll tax for all but the smallest firms that do not offer health insurance. It would also tax doctors and hospital revenues.
California, the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, has long had a major impact on American society. Yet in an era where many in Washington D.C. are focusing on the war in Iraq, Schwarzenegger is hoping to garner attention on pressing domestic matters.
The California state-of-the-state address sets the political agenda in the nation's most populous state. After a confrontational speech in 2005, Schwarzenegger suffered his worst political setback after voters rejected all of his conservative proposals that year.
In 2006, he embraced a bipartisan tone before a Legislature dominated by Democrats and proposed more than $222 billion in infrastructure spending over a decade supported by $68 billion in general obligation bonds -- an amount later trimmed to $42.7 and approved by voters in November.
In his inaugural speech on Friday, Schwarzenegger called for an embrace of political centrism in a "post-partisan" era.
On Tuesday, he also revived one of his losing 2005 initiatives, calling for changes in how the state draws its political districts. He said the current system does not favor moderates, adding: "There was more turnover in the Hapsburg monarchy than the California Legislature."