Published: Oct. 25, 2010
Updated: 3:49 p.m.


This article is part of a special report, in which we hope to examine California’s broken dreams and lost status as a model state, and to try to find solutions – answers from experts and you, our readers.

Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown both boast of big plans for the state’s biggest issues, but their approaches differ broadly.

A poll this month by the Public Policy Institute of California found that likely voters thought Whitman would do a better job than Brown on jobs and the economy (47 percent to 39 percent), and on the state budget (48 percent to 40 percent).

The poll found likely voters favored Brown on education (47 percent to 37 percent), the environment (57 percent to 25 percent), and immigration (43 percent to 37 percent). Overall, the poll found likely voters favor Brown, 44 percent to 36 percent. The poll was conducted Oct. 10 through 17, and had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

The candidates’ background are very different – a billionaire businesswoman, largely financially independent from special interests, who only began voting regularly in recent years; and a lifetime politician heavily backed by public labor unions.

But they vary widely on policy as well. Below are the two candidates’ divergent plans on six key issues. Note that many of their proposals would require the cooperation and approval of the Legislature, public-labor unions or voters.


Brown: Reduce the two-thirds requirement for budget approval (supports Prop. 25). Rather than starting each budget process with the previous year’s budget, start all departments at zero. Cut discretionary spending. Identify new sources of revenue before approving new spending.

Whitman: Maintain two-thirds requirement for budget approval (opposes Prop. 25). Limit spending growth to the state’s economic growth. Create a part-time Legislature. Create a commission to identify waste. Reduce the state workforce by 33,000. Reduce welfare benefits.


Brown: Spur the growing clean-energy industry – with incentives for solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy – to provide one-third of the state’s needs. Encourage small, local clean-energy projects. Pursue federal-funding for high-speed rail. Worker harder to recruit and retain businesses in California.

Whitman: Spur employment by eliminating capital gains, factory, and business start-up taxes. Increase research-and-development tax credits. Suspend new business regulations. Require an economic cost-benefit analysis for new regulations. Work harder to recruit and retain businesses in California.


Brown: Require voter approval for any tax increases.

Whitman: Cut capital gains, factory, and business start-up taxes. Increase research-and-development tax credits and create tax credits for new green-tech jobs.


Brown: Raise retirement age for new employees. Increase employee contribution rate. Base pension pay on the average salary of the employee’s last three years rather than last year. Ban pension spiking and retroactive enhancements. Put a cap on maximum possible pensions.

Whitman: Replace existing pension system with 401(k)-styled system for new state workers, excepting public-safety employees. Raise retirement age from 50 to 55 for public-safety employees, and 55 to 65 for other state employees. Increase the vesting period and ban pension spiking.


Brown: Supports implementation of AB 32’s restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions. Opposes offshore drilling. Encourage sustainable development by offering incentives for building near transit hubs. Work toward having 250,000 hybrid and electric vehicles in the state by 2015.

Whitman: Opposes Proposition 23’s suspension of the state’s greenhouse-gas restrictions, but wants a yearlong moratorium on implementation. Had previously supported offshore drilling, but after the BP oil spill said there should be no drilling until fail-safe technology is developed.


Brown: Wants a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Opposes Arizona’s new immigration law. Says it’s not the state’s job to crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Unlike Whitman, supports the Dream Act for students who are illegal immigrants.

Whitman: Wants a guest-worker program for agriculture. Wants a secure border before determining what should be done with those now in the country illegally. Wants a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Supports Arizona’s right to enact its new immigration law, but opposes it here.

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