On politics in the Golden State
September 27, 2010 | 6:12 pm

U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina offered some new details Monday on what she would do to curb federal spending, including a ban on congressional earmarks, a freeze on pay raises for some federal employees and a proposal to give taxpayers the right to designate as much as 10% of their federal tax liability toward reducing the national debt.

Reining in the growth of federal spending has been a top issue for Fiorina, who is running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. But she has avoided naming specific programs that she would cut or scale back — instead calling for a top-to-bottom review of each federal department to determine where cuts should be made.

Monday was no exception. During a meeting with roughly 50 students and other supporters at the University of San Diego, Fiorina said she would cap federal spending at 20% of gross domestic product, a target the campaign said was based on the average of federal spending as a proportion of GDP over the last 50 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal spending will average about 23% of GDP over the next decade. Last year it was 24.7% of GDP, but it is expected to drop this year to 23.8%, according to budget office estimate in August.

Fiorina did not explain how she would achieve that goal. Her spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said in an e-mail that “those are tough choices Congress is going to have to make and the tough choices Barbara Boxer has been unwilling to make” and said that Fiorina has outlined a number of proposals for tax cuts to help stimulate economic growth.

When analysts at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reviewed a similar proposal to cap spending at 21% of GDP, they concluded that achieving that goal would require “draconian cuts in Social Security, Medicare” and other federal programs. The Center’s study also said using spending levels in past years as a benchmark does not take into account the fact that the federal government is grappling with an older population, higher healthcare costs and new government responsibilities, including homeland security and the Medicare prescription drug program.

Fiorina told students in San Diego that paying off the national debt was critical because the debt will eventually “land on your shoulders.”

“None of these proposals I have made today are rocket science. They are all common sense,” she said. “It is not the government’s money. It’s the taxpayers’ money.”

In addition to spending caps, she has proposed a hiring freeze on non-security civilian employees, stating that the federal government should hire one civilian employee for every two who leave government service until the federal workforce returns to the size it was in 2008. (The freeze would exempt the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as the CIA, FBI and other agencies that account for more than half of the payroll of executive departments.)

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive also called for freezing the salaries of civilian employees in the federal government and directing unspent money in the government’s federal stimulus program toward reducing the debt.

Fiorina also reiterated her call for a more thorough review of government programs –- and the termination of programs shown to be “ineffective.”

Responding to a question from a reporter, she said she does not support the elimination of entire federal departments –- such as the U.S. Department of Education –- that some conservatives have sought. She did not provide examples of programs that she felt were ineffective or should be eliminated.

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