10:00 PM PST on Thursday, January 21, 2010

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – After repeatedly criticizing California’s congressional delegation for failing to procure more funding for the cash-strapped state, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger played a different role this week when he met with the same federal lawmakers in Washington.

It was a kinder, gentler Schwarzenegger who spent the last two days making his pitch to federal officials for an additional $6.9 billion in federal money to help close the state’s $20 billion budget gap.

While it is too soon to tell whether the trip will yield increased funding, the softer tone appeared to help smooth over any lingering ill will among the federal delegation, as lawmakers pledged to work more closely with state officials on ways to increase the flow of money from Washington to the Golden State.

“It became Democrats and Republicans as one team,” Schwarzenegger said, emphasizing that his visit was not to assess blame or suggest “that our congressional delegation hasn’t done their work, or anything like that.”

Inland Rep. Joe Baca, who was among those who took exception to the governor’s recent remarks, said Thursday’s meeting was cordial.

“He said, ‘I wasn’t really trying to point fingers,'” said Baca, D-Rialto, after leaving the meeting inside the Capitol Building. “We said we really need to get together more.”

The trip included meetings with both of California’s senators, dozens of the state’s House members and a pair of Obama administration officials. Joined by the top Republican and Democratic members of the state Assembly and Senate, Schwarzenegger laid out his case that California is owed the additional funding because it is a donor state, one that pays more in taxes than it receives back in federal cash.

Among his specific requests are: an increase in federal funding for Medi-Cal, the extension of some programs related to the federal Recovery Act, and full reimbursement for the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants. If they are not met, he has vowed billions in cuts to programs aimed at helping California’s needy.

“For each federal dollar that we fall short, we have a trigger list of additional cuts and revenues,” Schwarzenegger said earlier this month when he released his proposed budget.

In the same speech, he urged California’s congressional delegation to “join the fight” for more federal money. Days earlier, he suggested federal lawmakers should either vote against proposed health care legislation or work harder to get California a better deal in the bill.

His remarks angered lawmakers, who said they work tirelessly for the state’s interests.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., described the proposed cuts as a threat. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement chiding Schwarzenegger and saying the budget crisis was created in Sacramento — not Washington.

And Baca accused the governor of an irresponsible “pass-the-buck” mentality.

In addition to the war of words, the timing of Schwarzenegger’s trip on the same week as the special election in Massachusetts seemed to hold the potential to dampen support for his request.

Republicans captured the Senate seat held 47 years by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, toppling the Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority and dealing a huge blow to the health care legislation.

Schwarzenegger opposes the bill.

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