Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
Saturday, September 4, 2010
(09-03) 19:33 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Jerry Brown said Friday that if elected governor he would have to “do things that labor doesn’t like,” including cutting pension benefits for public employees and asking labor leaders to “put everything on the table” to get California’s bloated budget under control.
“If you’re looking for frugality, I’m your man,” the California attorney general and former two-term governor said in a meeting with The Chronicle’s editorial board. When he was governor from 1975 to 1983, he said, “I vetoed the pay raises for the state employees not once, but twice. I was overridden by 23 Republican votes.
“I called for the two-tier pension system in 1982,” added Brown, 72. “Of course, the next four governors didn’t do anything. I’m willing to get in the battle.”
To deal with the state’s budget mess, he said, “everybody’s going to be in a big room” and make some compromises. “You’re going to have to do some things that organized labor doesn’t like. Everybody’s got to get outside their comfort zone.”
Served his apprenticeship
He added: “The next governor has to be somebody that people feel is being straight, is talking to them in a real way. I don’t go there as an apprentice governor. This is something I understand.”
Brown, a Democrat who also served as Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, sidestepped questions about his specific plans on the budget, as well as where he stands on the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s proposals to resolve the budget impasse, which include raising $1.5 billion by increasing vehicle license fees, $600 million by taxing oil wells and $2 billion by suspending corporate tax breaks.
Instead, he reiterated his off-repeated stance on revenues: “No new taxes unless the people vote for them,” he said.
Brown, who is in a virtual dead heat with Republican Meg Whitman two months before the Nov. 2 election, made the comments during a lively and wide-ranging hourlong meeting with editors and reporters at the newspaper. Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has been invited to meet with The Chronicle’s editorial board before the general election.
Brown kicked off a new stage in his campaign this week with the airing of his first TV ads to compete with those of billionaire Whitman – who has deluged the airwaves for months and put a record-breaking $104 million of her own money into the race.
His campaign push comes as an independent expenditure group, California Working Families, said it would cut back on its pro-Brown advertising. The independent effort, which has spent more than $10 million on Brown’s behalf, gave Whitman’s team the ammunition to suggest that Brown would be a governor beholden to labor interests.
Brown strongly challenged that assumption Friday, saying that as a governor and mayor he went up against strong labor interests to attract development and business and achieve fiscal discipline.
He repeatedly portrayed himself as the only candidate with the skills to navigate budgetary gridlock in Sacramento. As a governor-elect, he said, he would lead a round-the-clock effort beginning in November to force competing special interests – including legislators and labor leaders – to hammer out consensus.
Brown said he would start the process right after the election and go as many as six days a week “until it’s finished,” he said. “I’ll have those people locked up in my own chamber and put my own cot out there if I have to.”
Brown said the state’s next governor must “get to a point of consensus – or if we can’t, to take it to a vote of the people.”
“I’m aiming for consensus somewhere around March,” he said. “If I can get to March 15, I can call a special election and have a vote – to key up some key decisions in time for the June 15 (ballot) deadline. … I think that is the only path forward.
“What is needed is the knowledge, and the skills and the diplomacy and the determination to push the process,” said Brown. “I don’t think a governor has ever been involved in the budget in the way that I’m proposing to do. …. I’m not going to sit there passively. I’m going to be the most aggressive, imaginative, engaged governor that this state has ever seen.”
By contrast, Brown portrayed Whitman as a first-time political candidate who offers flashy but unrealistic plans that he predicted would be stalled – and ultimately shredded – by the special interests and the Legislature in Sacramento.
“Meg Whitman says, ‘I want $17 billion in tax cuts,’ promises to lay off 40,000 people in state government and says, ‘We will cut capital gains taxes by $5 billion,’ ” he said. “That’s not going to go anywhere. She has no more chance of that than flying to the moon.”
The remarks prompted Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds to quip about the candidate that critics dubbed “Gov. Moonbeam” a quarter-century ago.
“I would have thought that Jerry Brown would have lost his moon travel references years ago.”
Bounds said that if Brown “were the collaborator and the skilled elected official he claims to be, Sacramento would not be mired in gridlock and the job market would not be destitute and he would have a record of collaborative accomplishments to base his campaign on. But he doesn’t.”
“He has experience in doing exactly what Sacramento’s been doing for the last 40 years, which is increasing taxes, increasing spending and increasing the regulations that have damaged our state’s economy,” Bounds said. “There’s probably no truer indication that Jerry Brown is a lifelong politician than that he’s running around trying to claim he’s a conservative. It’s laughable.”
Jerry Brown on the issues
Here’s what gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown had to say about key topics in his visit Friday with The Chronicle’s editorial board:
On pension reform: “You need a two-tier (pension system). The contributions are going to have to be increased and we have to put everything on the table. Because … the defined benefits only work if it’s actuarially sound. If the employees don’t contribute, then you have to either reduce salaries or lay people off to pay for it.”
On how he’ll get a budget: “The path forward is an honest, time-on task which has never been done in the history of California. … No governor has ever opened his budget in November. They keep it secret. … And they release it in January. … I’m saying (starting in November), intensity and nothing else. … I’ll have those people locked up in my own chamber and put my own cot out there if I have to.”
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