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SACRAMENTO ? Santa Rosa Assemblywoman Noreen Evans is emerging as one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?s fiercest critics, a noteworthy development given her prominent role in the high-stakes back-and-forth over the state budget crisis.

That position was further confirmed Tuesday with Evans? reaction to the governor?s address to a joint session of the Legislature.

?I don?t know what the point of that exercise was, really,? the Democrat said immediately after the speech as she stood outside the Assembly chambers.

Schwarzenegger told Assembly and Senate lawmakers that he has ?faith in our ability to once again come together for the good of the state.?

But Evans said the governor was not helpful ?at all? in bridging the divide between Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Rather, she labeled Schwarzenegger?s approach to budget matters as one of ?shock and awe.?

?It?s working because it?s shocking, and it?s awesome, and it?s terrible,? she said.

Evans? opinions carry significant weight as she heads the Assembly Budget Committee and as such is spearheading efforts to craft a formal response to the governor?s plans. That includes presiding over two weeks of joint Senate-Assembly public hearings related to the proposals.

Her repeated digs at the governor ? in a budget hearing earlier this week Evans wondered aloud whether Schwarzenegger would announce his latest revisions as a Twitter feed ? have not gone unnoticed in the Capitol and set her apart from members of her own party.

At a news conference after the speech, Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, struck a much more conciliatory tone as Evans stood behind him.

Evans, on the other hand, is giving full voice to the governor?s critics, calling his speech short on specifics. She also reiterated her opinion that his proposed cuts, particularly his calls to eliminate the CalWORKS and Healthy Families program, amount to throwing ?women and children off the lifeboat.?

As alternatives, she said lawmakers should consider tapping sources of revenue to try and offset the need for such moves, including a new tax on oil extraction and a nickel-a-can soda tax.

She also expressed opposition Tuesday to the governor?s plan to most of the state?s 279 state parks.

?I could look at closing parks on certain days. I could look at raising fees. But not closing entire parks,? she said.

Evans has needled the governor for releasing revisions to his budget proposal in what she considers untimely or confusing fashion.

On Tuesday, Aaron McLear, the governor?s press secretary, responded by saying staff will continue to update proposals as the fiscal situation progresses.

?It is our hope that Assemblywoman Evans can keep up,? he said.

Despite the obvious tensions, McLear said the governor can work with Evans. ?We?re confident she?s just as interested in solving this as we are,? he said.

Other North Coast legislators held a more positive view of the speech.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, praised Schwarzenegger for giving a ?great speech,? which he said captured the ?right spirit of where we are and what we need to do.?

?He was very clear in saying ?We?re in this together,? Huffman said. ?That touched a chord with me in a big way, and I think that?s what the public wants right now.?

Huffman, like other Democratic lawmakers, called for ?surgical? budget cuts and not the wholesale dismantling of state programs, such as Healthy Families.

?You lose a bit of your soul when you pull the rug out from beneath the neediest Californians,? he said. ?You?re going to lose three federal dollars for every state dollar you save. As the saying goes, you can?t afford to keep saving like that.?

He also said he supports raising some taxes or fees.

State Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, said Schwarzenegger?s speech was ?on target.?

She said she does not like the proposed cuts but said they have to be made.

?Revenues aren?t going to be the mainstream, so cuts have to be made. That?s it,? she said.

She did not provide specifics and through her staff declined a request for elaboration.

Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, said the governor?s stated goal of putting partisanship aside is what?s needed to avoid a potentially "catastrophic" budget situation.

He said he does not support the elimination of programs such as CalWORKS or Healthy Families without careful review. He said closing state parks and cuts proposed for law enforcement could particularly affect rural districts such as his.

Chesbro said tax increases likely would require voter approval or the governor?s signature, two unlikely scenarios.

"We?re going to have to find ways to reduce costs in these programs, but we have to do it without devastating rural communities," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek J. Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@


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