Facing a near $20 billion state deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding health-care and programs for needy children hostage in an effort to get the federal government to kick in nearly $7 billion.

Of course, don't call it a bailout. Under Schwarzenegger's budget plan, which he touted this week, any federal help would simply be payback for the state's disproportionate tax contribution to Washington, D.C.'s coffers and for increases in the rates for California's Medicaid costs.

The governor is threatening to eliminate the California's welfare-to-work program, CalWorks, which would make it the only state in the union without such a system in the wake of the Clinton administration's welfare reforms.

Schwarzenegger is also threatening to reduce the state's Healthy Families health-care program for needy children by cutting 200,000 kids from its roster at first, and then possibly killing the whole thing and letting 900,000 kids fend for themselves.

Some in Congress aren't too happy with Schwarzenegger's antics, especially after he accepted a round of federal stimulus spending. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the governor's move “not constructive,” and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) told the Los Angeles Times that “the governor got himself into this mess. He wants everybody to like him instead of making the tough decisions. It's kind of silly to come to the federal government.”

More from the Los Angeles Times and Reuters.

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