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Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman Outlines Economic Plan for California

At a stop in Santa Barbara, the Republican hopeful addresses what she calls the state's most challenging issues

Speaking to a small audience assembled Thursday in the theater at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman took a few moments to outline her plan to bring California back from its state of economic — and, perhaps, moral — despair.

Accompanied by former Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, Whitman answered questions on a number of issues.

A New York native, Whitman said her stint at the helm of eBay in San Jose did much to shape her view that small business is the cornerstone of California’s economy. Promising to solve many of the state’s ills by focusing on key problems, she emphasized job creation, elimination of wasteful spending and fortification of the educational system as the main points of focus for her administration if elected.

“Great leaders stand up and give a vision of the way things could be, enlist as many people as possible in achieving that vision, and are tough as nails when the time comes,” she said, calling for cooperation from people throughout California to pull the state out of its $20 billion deficit. “It’s all about the power of many. Professional career politicians cannot change California, but you can.”

Calling the Legislature — which has an approval rating hovering just above 10 percent — a “bill factory,” Whitman vowed to veto any legislation not dedicated directly at getting California out of its crisis.

“(Their support) is down to blood relatives and paid staffers,” she said to a few chuckles, and called for a moratorium on new, potentially business-inhibiting regulations.

Emphasizing the need for more accountability in Sacramento, Whitman said that if elected, she plans to institute a statewide grand jury aimed at eliminating fraud and waste within state agencies.

“Sacramento has been a largely consequence-free zone,” she said. “There are 58 grand juries around the state ... that don’t have the teeth for consequence.”

Whitman went on to suggest that she would create a state inspector general position that would report to the governor’s office to head up the effort.

During a question-and-answer session, Whitman touched on other hot-button issues, such as prison overcrowding, immigration, gun control and the environment. Current regulations, she said, are causing businesses to leave California for more business-friendly states such as Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

While Whitman did not offer overt support of Arizona’s recent action to crack down on illegal immigration, she vowed to send the California National Guard to the Mexico border should the federal government fail to keep it secure.

“If we can send a man to the moon, we can secure our border,” she said.

One audience member challenged Whitman on her personal voting record. She admitted she had not voted as much as she should have, but she promised to be focused on getting California back on its feet, starting with moving education funding — 40 percent of which she said goes to support administrative costs — more heavily into supporting teachers and classroom supplies. By grading all schools and paying teachers based on merit, a suggestion highly unpopular with teachers unions, Whitman said she would aim to raise test scores among California’s children, which rank low nationally.

To create jobs, Whitman said she would institute targeted tax cuts, streamline regulations affecting businesses, and promote competition between California’s companies and those in other states.

“I want to do an across-the-board tax cut, but the truth is that we cannot afford it on top of a $20 billion budget deficit,” she said, suggesting the need for an economic development team to analyze the best options. “I refuse to believe that California can’t be better than it is. Can California be fixed? Yes, it can. We can make the Golden State golden again.”

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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