Brown, Whitman vague about Calif budget deficit | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Brown, Whitman vague about Calif budget deficit

Brooke Donald
Associated Press Writer

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers on Tuesday missed a constitutional deadline to pass a state budget, but they should not expect much help from the gubernatorial candidates.

Neither Democrat Jerry Brown nor Republican Meg Whitman has offered details about how to close California’s $19 billion budget deficit.

At a campaign event in Silicon Valley, Brown offered few plans on how he would close the budget gap. He said only that it was imperative to start negotiations as soon as possible so lawmakers don’t put off difficult negotiations until summer, when the fiscal year ends.

He said he would discuss the budget with legislators as early as the week after the November election if he wins, instead of waiting for January – when the governor typically releases his budget.

“I personally will engage all 120 members of the Legislature in groups and as a whole week after week until we can lay out before the people of California what are our options, and they’re going to be very, very difficult. I know that,” Brown said.

The Democratic nominee declined to be specific about steps he would take to address the deficit, which is about 23 percent of the general fund budget for the coming fiscal year.

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Whitman has proposed a plan to cut the state work force by 40,000, reduce government spending and curtail prison medical spending. But she also does not have a specific plan for closing the immediate deficit.

The billionaire former eBay CEO also has not shared how she would get the Democratic-controlled Legislature to go along with her ideas. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stumbled in his attempts to implement some of the same budget reforms Whitman has proposed.

Under ideas to cut spending listed in her campaign brochure, Whitman said she would institute a state spending cap and defend the two-thirds vote required to pass a budget or raise taxes in the Legislature. Her campaign did not detail Tuesday how Whitman would solve the state’s current budget deficit, but issued a statement calling for spending cuts, pension reform and no tax increases.

“If the state legislature was doing its job, it would have passed a responsible budget plan on time to signal that California state government is finally serious about getting its act together,” Whitman said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Instead, Sacramento politicians once again have failed miserably.”

Brown told business leaders in Silicon Valley that he would review spending in the governor’s office and the Legislature, saying “you’ve got to start and lead by example.” He added he would investigate key elements of state spending, including prisons, education, health care and highways.

“So you start that process and you bring in the influence groups to influence and shape the thinking of legislators, and you go around to the state and this becomes a dialogue, a discourse, an engagement … about our future,” Brown said.

Earlier, when asked about transportation spending, Brown said he would not go into specific details, in part because Whitman had attacked her rival in the GOP primary for supporting a 2000 school bond initiative backed by many Republicans.

Proposition 39, which passed by a 53 percent to 47 percent vote, made it easier for voters to approve school construction bonds supported by property taxes. It was a bipartisan initiative, whose honorary chair was former Gov. Pete Wilson, the chairman of Whitman’s campaign.

“So don’t expect to get anything like that from me,” Brown said in response to a question about how he would provide transportation funding. “Mums the word.”

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Associated Press Writer Samantha Young in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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