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Fact Checking Claims By Brown, Whitman In Final Debate

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California Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

California Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

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SAN RAFAEL (AP) — Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman made statements about state spending, budgeting plans and other issues that didn’t quite match reality or were incomplete.

On the BUDGET:

Debate moderator Tom Brokaw referenced the recently signed California budget, which relies on rosy financial forecasts and questionable assumptions about revenue to bridge a $19 billion deficit. Both candidates claimed to have a better approach, but neither has offered specifics about how to close a deficit that is already forecast to be in the billions next fiscal year.

Whitman criticized Brown for his only specific pledge on the budget, to cut the governor’s office budget by 10 percent to 15 percent. She noted correctly that it would amount to less than $3 million, or a fraction of the anticipated deficit. But she incorrectly claimed to have her own detailed plan.

“I’ve got a very detailed plan. I think that’s part of leadership. You have to say what you think is a plan to get California on track,” Whitman said.

Whitman has offered proposed cuts and general ideas about how to reform state government, but has not released a budget plan. For example, she has said she would cut 40,000 state government positions but has not detailed where or how.

Brown also offered only generalities, saying he wanted to bring all 120 state legislators together shortly after the November election, then “take it on the road.”

“I think we have to articulate in a very clear way what is California government? What do we want in our schools and our prisons and our highways and our waterways?”

On BROWN’S RECORD as governor from 1975-83:

Whitman accused Brown of offering a “half-answer and therefore a dishonest answer” when he said taxes decreased during his tenure as governor, jobs increased and that government regulations have expanded since he left office. But each candidate told only half the story.

Whitman claimed that unemployment nearly doubled to what was then a record 11 percent under Brown’s leadership; unemployment initially fell after Brown took office, but later rose as the nation entered a recession.

“And that’s the kind of half-answer that’s the reason that people don’t trust politicians. And spending went up by 120 percent,” Whitman added.

But Whitman has acknowledged that the 120 percent number she has used in the campaign fails to account for California’s population growth and inflation during that time. The Associated Press previously reported that actual state spending rose 12.3 percent during Brown’s tenure—a fraction of Whitman’s claim and about the same as that of his immediate predecessor, Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan.

Moderator Tom Brokaw interjected to note that Brown’s tenure ended in the midst of a nationwide recession, noting that four states that had Republican governors at the time had higher unemployment rates then.

On CAMPAIGN SPENDING:

Brown said he will not be beholden to public employee unions, which are among his campaign’s largest contributors and have spent nearly $20 million on his behalf. Whitman has given her campaign $142 million from her own fortune, which she said makes her independent of special interest groups.

“I’m up against some pretty big entrenched interests,” Whitman said, adding that if elected, she would go to the state capital “with no strings attached.”

However, Whitman has taken in nearly $30 million from outside sources, many of whom have ties to the corporate world she inhabited before her recent interest in politics. In addition, an independent group affiliated with the Los Angeles police union has spent more than $1.2 million in ads supporting her.

Brown said he stood up to unions as governor, vetoing proposed pay raises for public employees. But he also signed mandatory collective bargaining legislation in 1976 that dramatically boosted union clout, making him wildly popular with unions to this day.

He noted that some unions have opposed him in his previous runs for public office.

On the CAPITAL GAINS tax:

Whitman has proposed eliminating California’s capital gains tax, which primarily benefits the wealthy, as a way to revive the state’s economy.

“The capital gains tax, the tax he likes so much, is a tax on jobs, tax on creators and tax on investments. If we eliminate this capital gains tax, what you’ll see is more jobs, more businesses, more tax revenues,” said Whitman, a billionaire.

Brown says doing so would worsen the state’s budget deficit, forcing even more cuts to state programs.

The budget relies heavily on income taxes, which are volatile. That includes anywhere from $2.6 billion to $10.8 billion a year in capital gains taxes in the last decade when individuals sold stocks, real estate investments and other assets, according to the state Franchise Tax Board.

Whitman has not proposed a way to plug the budget hole that could be left by eliminating the tax. Instead, she says the state would reap the benefits of increased economic activity as wealthy people spend more.

Brown countered that people who make $500,000 or more a year would save the most from the cut, “and there’s not one guarantee they’ll spend that money in California.”

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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