Meg Whitman declared her candidacy to become California's next governor --and its first woman governor-- on Tuesday, and on Wednesday she was on my radio show talking in great detail about her agenda. The transcript of our conversation yesterday is here, and the transcript of our much longer conversation from last May is here and here.
When we spoke in late spring, it was a biographical interview, the same sort I have done in February with her likely toughest opponent in the primary, Steve Poizner.
Yesterday's conversation with Whitman was about the key issues facing California, and the most important one is the devastating tax burden driving out businesses and depressing growth while accounting for the 12% unemployment in the state. Step one in any recovery has to be stopping and reversing the enormous taxing appetite of Sacramento. So my first specific question was whether Meg Whitman had signed on to the Americans for tax reform pledge:
HH: One of your opponents, Steve Poizner, has said on other places he signed the no tax pledge and that you haven’t. Is that true? Haven’t you signed the ATR pledge?
MW: I did sign the ATR pledge. Yup, we faxed it in, and they have it.
HH: All right. So you are on record, no tax hikes under a Meg Whitman governorship?
That's exactly the right answer, but what about tax cuts?
HH: All right, in terms of cutting taxes, which taxes would you suggest be first to put to the legislature to cut?
MW: Well first, we have to cut the business taxes for job-creating business of all sizes. We’ve got to reinstate and reinvigorate the R & D tax credit, we’ve got to make sure we provide tax incentives and credits for companies that hire displaced workers. But across the board, we have to look at business taxes, because as you know, we have the highest business taxes in the country. And then we have to look at personal income taxes, because those are the highest also in the country, and we have put a burden on hard working Californians that is just almost impossible for them to work out from underneath. You know, Californians are tapped out. They have no more money to give to Sacramento, and by the way, to Washington, for that matter.
Again, clarity. Californians know that large Democratic majorities are blocking tax relief in Sacramento, but anyone who campaigns on a firm promise of rollback is going to win the votes of those who are not dependent on tax revenues for their pay checks.
And finally, we talked about the judge-ordered drought in California's Central Valley, where water deliveries were cut off early this year because a federal judge ruled that those deliveries could hurt the endangered delta smelt. At least 40,000 Californians have lost their jobs as a result, and the devastation to America's breadbasket has been awful to behold. Arnold has been impotent, and has refused to even call for the convening of the "God Squad" which is provided for under the federal Endangered Species Act. Here's myu exchange with Whitman on the issue:
HH: I’ll come back and talk budget in the next segment, but let’s stay for a second on the regulations you want to cut. Right now, the Central Valley is dying, Meg Whitman, because it can’t get water, because of a federal judge.
HH: It is a judge ordered drought. That’s not a regulation. But what would you do about something like that?
MW: Well, I wrote an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee about four months ago calling for the water to be turned on to the Central Valley. We have to pump more water through the Delta, because we have a humanitarian crisis. And I understand the challenges that there are ecological issues facing the Delta, but we have a humanitarian crisis going on. And I called for more water to be pumped. And that has still not happened, and we are still losing jobs and losing acres and acres and acres of agricultural land in the Central Valley. So I would have turned on the pumps.
HH: Governor Schwarzenegger declined to call for what is called the God squad, saying it wouldn’t be effective, it wouldn’t be fast enough. I’m not quite sure what Arnold said specifically. Would you use every tool available to you, including the God squad?
MW: Every tool available. I think if, you know, let’s come back to jobs. If jobs is the number one priority to get California back on a health path, the biggest job loss by sector in the California economy has been agriculture. So if we want to decrease unemployment, then let’s put agricultural workers and the farmers back to work. And the best way to do that is to turn on the water. And I would have used every tool in my disposal to get that water turned back on.
HH: Do you think that’s consistent with sound environmental policy?
MW: You know, I am, as you know, I care deeply about the environment. It’s one of the reasons that we all live in California. But we have to be able to make trade-offs. We have to have a balanced common sense approach here. And when faced with a crisis of water that affects hundreds of thousands of people, affects our food supply not only for California, but frankly for the United States of America, we have to make hard decisions. And this is not an easy decision, but you have to ultimately, I think, come down in a crisis on the side of people.
Read the whole transcript, but with a pledge of no new taxes, a commitment to tax cuts, and a strong endorsement of people and farming over fish and environmental extremists, Meg Whitman has a strong start to a long camapign.