Meg Whitman

James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/01/2010 06:05:15 PM PST

Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive who is hoping to be California’s next governor, campaigned in San Bernardino on Monday, touring a manufacturing plant and meeting local Republicans at a town hall meeting.

Whitman, who has said she wants to create 2 million private-sector jobs in California by 2015, visited the Kendall Drive manufacturing plant of Cannon Safe, Inc., where company president Aaron Baker said regulations and high taxes make it less profitable to do so.

“The tax liability in California is burdensome,” Baker said. “I can move to Arizona or Nevada and save 10 percent.”

Whitman says she wants to slash state spending and cut taxes to help shrink that tax burden. Part of her plan is to cut 40,000 jobs from the state payroll and change the state’s pension system – both items that would pit her against powerful public employee unions.

“What everyone agrees on is that we have a government we can no longer afford,” said Whitman, a billionaire who has donated nearly $40 million to her campaign. “We have to take a different approach.”

Asked how that message would play in San Bernardino, where state and county government agencies are some of the largest employers, Whitman said many public employees agree that something has to change. She also said she would try to cut most of those 40,000 jobs through retirement and attrition.

“Not everyone will be supportive,” she said. “But my obligation (as governor) is to run the state efficiently.”

She later added, “This is a tough job – you haven’t have a huge need to be liked.”

Other than by cutting the state’s payroll, Whitman said she wants to cut state spending by finding fraud and abuse in public assistance programs – something that’s already been a focus for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – and by privatizing parts of the state government, possibly including prisons.

“I would want to look at that,” she said. “We spend 25 percent more to house a prisoner in California than they do in New York.”

She said California should look at options such as sending prisoners to Michigan and other states that have empty beds in their prison systems.

Despite a laundry list of possible ways to cut spending, save money or boost business, Whitman said the next governor “can only focus on a few things.”

One of those things will be more frequent use of the veto.

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