By Jack Chang
Published: Thursday, Mar. 4, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

OAKLAND – A day after announcing his candidacy for governor, Attorney General Jerry Brown said Wednesday that if elected he would consider overhauling public employee pension programs while opposing any move to privatize them.

The Democrat also expressed admiration for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and stuck with his pledge not to raise taxes to bridge budget deficits, saying he would focus like a laser on the budget.

“The first step and the most important step today is to present an honest budget not with phony cuts and implausible revenue – and be honest that it’s going to take more than a year to fix it,” Brown said in an interview at his expansive campaign headquarters near Oakland’s Jack London Square.

“In the meantime, we want to keep the spending down and find where we can reduce while we encourage the private sector to generate the revenue,” he added.

Asked about public employee retirement plans, Brown said that while he supports fixed pensions as opposed to 401(k) plans, he wants to be sure they’re actuarially sound.

“I think we have to look at the whole pension system,” Brown said. “Particularly, the health benefits are of even bigger concern.”

Brown appeared to criticize Schwarzenegger in his announcement, saying California shouldn’t take another chance on “an outsider who knows virtually nothing about state government.”

He said Wednesday he finds a lot to admire about the Republican governor.

“I like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said. “I like seeing him smoke his cigars in the tent. And more importantly and more seriously, I like his bold ideas.”

“At the same time,” Brown added, “everything comes down to minute particulars, and you’ve got to focus.”

Brown was energized Wednesday afternoon as he talked to reporters and prepared for a swing through Southern California today.

The 71-year-old even executed a dozen pull-ups from a metal bar before sitting down with The Bee for a 30-minute talk as his wife, Anne Gust, campaign manager Steve Glazer and other aides circulated around the office.

While Brown has touted his years as governor from 1975 to 1983 as good preparation for running the state now, GOP rivals Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have used that history against him. In particular, they blame Brown for allowing collective bargaining rights for state employees.

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