WASHINGTON — Californians can expect "drastic cuts" in education, health care and law enforcement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday after voters rejected a series of ballot measures designed to reduce those cuts.

"We heard the voice of the voters loud and clear, and they want us to go all out and make those cuts" to close a $21.3 billion budget shortfall through the middle of next year, the governor said.

"You try not to make cuts that you feel would be devastating to some people, but now we have to do that," he added.

Schwarzenegger finished a two-day trip to Washington and headed back to Sacramento to meet with legislative leaders to deal with the latest state budget crisis.

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The governor's trip was marked by highs and lows. A White House event Tuesday celebrated new national vehicle emissions standards that was a victory for California, but the failure of the budget initiatives backed by the governor made his request for federal help more urgent.

He met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, seeking a waiver that would allow the state to make cuts in the Medi-Cal program without losing federal matching funds.

The governor said Sebelius pledged to work with the state on "flexibilities" to help California and not lose federal funding.

Schwarzenegger said the ballot measures failed mainly because people were tired of special elections, and their attitude toward state leaders was simple: "Don't come to us with your problems."


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"The majority of people who came up to me didn't complain so much about certain issues," Schwarzenegger said at a press conference. "They just said, 'Why are you bothering me again? I mean, I'm busy. You take care of it. You guys are sent to Sacramento to take care of those problems.' "

He also said many people don't know where to make cuts in state services, but they expect their leaders to make those decisions.

The governor, who came to power in a special election, said: "If you look at the history of special elections, it appears they don't work."

Contact Frank Davies at fdavies@mercurynews.com or 202-662-8921.