Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

California GOP governor's race III -- Meg Whitman

September 28, 2009 | 10:04 am

California's State Capitol in Sacramento

As the nation's most populous state, California has even more voters than the new Obama White House has policy czars.

The state's politics and personalities often have been harbingers of trends, policies, tax revolts, etc. that eventually work their way across the country and draw international attention.

Over the weekend, California's Republican Party held its state convention, a prime podium for its major gubernatorial hopefuls to address party faithful and lay out their initial profile and policy declarations. Speakers included former Rep. Tom Campbell, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and businesswoman Meg Whitman.

They've each been raising money and endorsements for months, of course, with varying degrees of success. But since this is the de facto start to the public campaign, The Ticket decided to run the unfiltered text of the speeches given by each declared candidate and provided by their staff so that readers can get a feel for who's coming, how they choose to describe themselves at the outset and what to watch for.

We've published them here this morning about two hours apart in last-name alphabetical order. Campbell's speech text was posted earlier today. Poizner's speech text was posted earlier today.

Click here for Whitman's campaign website

As always, feel free to leave your civil comments at the bottom.

-- Andrew Malcolm

But first, click here for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item. Or follow us   @latimestot

Remarks by Meg Whitman to the California Republican Party Convention, Sept. 26:

Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I’m so happy to be here today. And let me acknowledge some friends in the audience.

Earlier this week I made it official and announced my commitment to seek the Republican nomination for governor. I’m the first Republican to take that step. And I did it because our crisis.... deepening. Things in California are getting worse. The time has come for all of us to take a stand – to make an all-out effort to reclaim the California we love.

Since February, I’ve been going non-stop listening to people, sharing ideas, thinking hard about the problems Californians face. I’ve visited dozens of towns in every corner of our state and participated in more than 100 events.

I’ve also spent a lot of time assembling a first-rate campaign team… a team committed not just to my victory, but also to seeing Republicans win across the state.

In the months ahead, I will be reaching out to many more voters, visiting more towns, and working with Republican candidates to organize and energize our party. 

Republicans have a lot of work to do.  We need to organize like never before.  Last week I committed $250,000 to fund our Party’s voter registration efforts. We need to do all we can to attract more people to our party, and we want them to stay. 

I believe in my heart that we can win next November… and with all that’s riding on next year’s elections, Republicans must win.

Now, during the past 8 months, as I’ve traveled the state, I’ve consistently heard one thing…  Californians in every walk of life have told me again and again that they desperately want California to be great again.

There’s a profound hunger for change, for leadership, and for authenticity. Californians want to trust their leaders again. They want to be told the truth.  And most of all, they want to live in a place of opportunity and optimism, not a place of small dreams and scaled-down ambitions.

Californians love their state, but they understand that their home is in deep trouble. They know because they confront the problems every day. 

More than 2.2 million Californians are out of work. Our unemployment rate is at a record-shattering 12.2 percent. And in some parts of the state, things are much worse.  In parts of Riverside County, unemployment hovers around 30 percent. 

Think about what that means… Think about the heartbreaking conversations that have taken place:  Employers telling long-time employees they must go… Husbands telling wives that they can’t afford their homes… Parents telling children their college dreams are over.

For Californians who still have jobs, taxes and fees are eating into their lives. Every year we pay more to sustain an out-of-control state bureaucracy… A wasteful and arrogant bureaucracy, out of touch with the needs of Californians and unwilling to give an inch even in the toughest of economic times.

When I was with you in February, I shared a statistic that made you gasp.  It bears repeating. During the past decade, California’s government spending has grown by 80 percent. Do you feel like our state is 80 percent better? … Of course it isn’t…

And here’s another startling fact: Since 2004, state government has added more than 40,000 employees.  This year, at a time of deep recession, when local governments, families and businesses across our state are cutting back, the government of California has actually hired 10,000 more bureaucrats! Is it any wonder that Californians are fed up?

And if unemployment, taxes, fees, and out-of-control spending don’t ruin your day, there’s a good chance you’re very worried about your children’s education.

Too many Californians send their children to broken public schools. Schools where our best teachers lose faith and where union rules give our worst teachers a free pass. Schools where our children fail to learn and where the state’s future diminishes a little more each day.  Is it any wonder that Californians are fed up?  … Of course not…

Californians have every right to be in a foul mood.  Cynicism towards everything Sacramento – towards the politics and the politicians – runs deep. People are tired of the lies. They’re angry at the lack of values and commitment. And they’re worried that if we don’t do something soon, it may just be too late.

I understand those feelings. I’ve lived in California for nearly 28 years. My sons were born here. I built a business here. My husband became a doctor here. I care deeply about this state. And I refuse to accept that California cannot be better than it is today. I refuse to let California fail.

But let’s be honest with one another, you’ve all heard this before… 

So today more than ever, you want to elect a governor who lives up to your ideals. Who shares your core values. Who may not agree with you on every issue, but is consistent and principled in his or her goals and beliefs. You want to know with certainty what you’re getting in a candidate. And you’re right to want to know that.

Well, all I can say is this: you will always know where I stand…  I will not repackage myself just to win this election or stay in office…

I happen to think that if I tell you who I am, what I’ve accomplished, what I believe, and what I plan to do, you will decide for yourselves whether I should have your vote. So let me briefly take you down that path.

For those of you who know me, you know that first I’m a mom. I have two older boys, one’s in college and one just graduated. And I’m happy to report that the college graduate has actually found a job and is paying his own rent!

My husband, Griff, is a neurosurgeon at Stanford.  We’ve been married 29 years. And after all those years, Griff’s still the love of my life, my inspiration… without him I wouldn’t be standing here today.

I’ve spent the past 30 years in business. I’ve worked for such great companies as Procter & Gamble, Disney, Hasbro, Stride Rite, and FTD. I’ve had to be confident, efficient, focused, and most importantly, accountable.

During the past 10 years, I was the President and CEO of eBay. I built eBay from a 30-person, $4 million dollar company, to a company of 15,000 employees and nearly $8 billion in revenues.

eBay was the culmination of my business career. It’s the place where I tested my years of experience and honed my leadership skills. But it was also much more. 

At eBay, I helped millions of people create small businesses on the marketplace. I became intimately familiar with the challenges small businesses face in this country. 

I came to understand that job creation is dependent on a fragile mix of circumstances – circumstances all too often disrupted by the intrusive hand of government. 

And I came to love the inspired individual – a person set free to pursue his or her dreams by an open marketplace and a free society. 

Government does not create wealth in this country – inspired individuals create wealth. Helping those people succeed on eBay was the privilege of a lifetime.

My interest in public service blossomed during my years at eBay. It’s an interest that was fueled by my parents, both of whom served their country in the Pacific during World War II.  And it’s an interest that was inspired by my long friendships with Mitt Romney and John McCain.

I am running for governor because California simply cannot continue on the path it’s on. And I want your support because I believe I’m uniquely qualified to help turn our state around.

California is the world’s 8th largest economy. It contributes 13 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product.  America’s future is deeply woven into the fabric of California. And I believe that the outcome of our struggles to govern our state and fix our problems will define America’s destiny in the 21st century.

California Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman

Now, we can continue down the path we’re on: We can bury our heads and just accept the inevitability of reckless government spending… 

We can keep sucking up tax increase after tax increase… 

We can pretend that it’s not a big deal when a neighbor we know or a business we depend on moves to another state…

We can ignore the schools, especially if our kids are not in them…

And we can blame the whole mess on the politicians and move on.

But if we do that – if we continue down the ugly path we’re on – our children and grandchildren will inherit a terribly diminished state… California will become a symbol not for what’s possible, but for the missed potential of a great people.

I want to take a different approach. I’m a big believer in focus. And I believe the next governor has to focus on three things to save our state. She must create jobs, cut spending and fix our broken education system. 

We could spend hours talking about each of these areas.  Instead, what I’ll do now is share the main parts of what I propose to do. I invite you to visit my website at for more details.

Since earlier this year, I’ve been crystal clear that if I’m elected I’ll look at everything through the lens of job creation. California simply cannot begin to solve its problems until our people are working again. We must put jobs first.

My number one goal as governor will be to help the private sector create at least 2 million jobs for Californians by 2015. This is the amount we need if we’re going to replace the jobs our economy has stopped producing or is losing to neighboring states. It’s the target we need to hit if we’re going to restore prosperity.

The way you create jobs is by lowering taxes and eliminating redundant and poorly conceived regulations that stifle job growth. You have to create an environment where businesses can afford to stay in California and create more jobs.

As governor, I’ll cut taxes to create jobs. … Specifically, I’ll cut taxes for job-creating businesses of every size.  I’ll implement targeted tax relief, such as a sales tax exemption for manufacturing and R&D equipment, to help rebuild manufacturing in California.  I’ll expand research and development tax credits.  And I’ll establish tax incentives and credits for companies that train and hire displaced workers.

I’ll also establish a cabinet-level position in my administration dedicated to private sector job growth. 

Times have changed and California has to compete for jobs.  When I was CEO of eBay, I frequently got calls from governors around the country trying to get me to move business to their states.  If I’m elected, you can bet I’ll be burning up the phone lines to businesses in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, and beyond.

If the burden of taxes and fees in California don’t kill off your business, don’t worry, regulations will.

When I began to tour the state, I expected to get an earful about taxes, and I have. But the passion I’ve seen around government regulation, especially from small business owners, has been just as strong, and with good reason.

For the sake of one cause or another, California has piled mountains of bad regulations on business. We do a lousy job of anticipating the unintended consequences of all those rules. Half the time, we don’t even bother to check whether existing laws address a particular problem.

You see, bureaucrats rarely have the desire to think things through, and politicians rarely have the courage.

A study released this past Monday found that the total cost of regulation to the state is $493 billion. And that cost results in an employment loss of 3.8 million jobs, which is about a tenth of the state’s population.  California’s regulatory environment is a proven job killer.

So on my first day in office, I’ll issue a moratorium on all new regulations until our economy has begun to recover.  I’ll initiate a complete review of the state’s existing regulations to root out and eliminate the rules that don’t make sense or are outdated. And I’ll appoint people who share my view on regulations and work to make sure there’s a balance between the right rules and a healthy economy.

And if I’m elected, I’ll take a careful, thoughtful approach to environmental regulation. 

The environment of California is important to all of us. California’s natural beauty is one of the reasons I love this state so much.And I worry that man has not always been a careful steward of our state’s natural resources.

As governor, I will work hard to protect the environment of our state. But, the needs of our environment have to be balanced with the needs of our people and our economy.

We have unilaterally implemented too many over-reaching environmental regulations – laws that have left us at an economic disadvantage.

AB-32 is a great example. Governor Schwarzenegger signed this legislation into law in 2006. It’s goal is admirable – to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions. But the consequences to the economy have been ignored. 

A recent study estimates that AB-32 could cost the state more than a million jobs and implementation costs could exceed $100 billion. That’s devastating.

As governor, I will place a one-year moratorium on AB-32 by executive order, until we fully understand the law’s impact on our troubled economy.

To be clear, I’m not talking about repealing AB-32. Instead, I want to exercise the prudent option in the law that allows the governor to push back implementation when there is a threat of significant economic harm. …

My bottom line is simply this: I love California’s environment. But I reject environmental policies that do little for the environment and wreak havoc on California’s economic future… Liberal environmentalists may not like jobs or people, but California needs both.

Now, let’s talk about spending. And honestly, when I talk about spending, I just get mad…

It’s really very simple. California cannot spend more money than it takes in. Why is it so hard for politicians to come to terms with this concept? Families get it. Businesses get it.  We all get it.

Our problem is not revenue. We collect enough taxes to run this state and then some. Our problem – our addiction – is spending. And it’s an addiction that’s killing us. It’s killing our state and it’s killing our country.

Simply put, Californians can no longer afford the government they have. The Democrats and special interests can try to convince us that our taxes are reasonable, and that we should all just be grateful to live here. But people know better.

Californians are tapped out. They have no more money to give to Sacramento or Washington for that matter.  And Californians are mad. They don’t have the luxury of getting a pay raise whenever they need one. So why does California’s government get to raise our taxes whenever they want more money?

We need a governor with a spine of steel who will look at the books, decide on priorities, deal with the legislature, and take the heat for what we cut and what we fund. If being popular and getting re-elected is your goal, then being governor is a really bad job-person fit.

As I committed to in February, if elected I will identify and implement at least $15 billion in permanent spending cuts from the state budget. I’ll eliminate redundant and underperforming government agencies and commissions. 

And I will reduce the state workforce by at least 40,000 employees. That reduction that will reset the workforce to 2004-2005 levels and save the state a projected $3.3 billion annually.

But cutting simply isn’t enough.  We have to get our heads around the concept that mismanagement and waste in government is sapping precious dollars away from the things we want to do.

Did you know that almost every state worker receives a merit pay increase every year until they reach the top of their pay scale?  How can that be?  Are your pay raises guaranteed?

With automatic pay increases every year, there is no incentive for state workers to perform, and managing performance is nearly impossible.

As governor, I’ll reform government management.  I’ll crack down on the overly generous benefits of state employees. I’m deadly serious about rooting out the waste of tax dollars.

And I am serious about the need for California’s government to finally enter the 21st century. 

We need to systematically apply technology to our government agencies, so we can realize the same savings and efficiencies that have helped our economy. 

And right now, government is not being held accountable for much of what it does. I want to start measuring government performance. I will create meaningful performance goals for departments and publish the results on line. 

I want our government – and your governor – to be held responsible for delivering the services Californians are paying for.

Education must be the third priority for our next governor. And again, the issue here is very simple.

If we don’t rededicate ourselves to education with the same energy Americans have applied to going to the moon and fighting wars, the results will be profound. We will lose our ability to innovate and create the next generation of companies and jobs in California – to create the next eBay, the next Google, the next Genentech.  We will permanently erode California’s prosperity.

We must start producing more and better-qualified high school graduates – graduates ready for advanced studies or prepared for strong vocational careers.

More than fifty percent of our state budget, or about $50 billion, goes to education, and we are still failing our children.  We’re ranked at the bottom in the quality of our K-12 education. In two of the most important skills for elementary school education – math and reading – our state ranks 47th and 48th. In science, we rank 43rd.

The issue is not money. There’s plenty of money. It’s how the money is spent.

If you send me to Sacramento, I’ll put more control in the hands of local educators and parents…

I’ll grade our schools A through F and put the results on line so parents can easily determine how their schools are doing…

I’ll give parents the ability to move their children out of failing schools…

And I’ll remove the state cap on the number of charter schools so we can have more competition in our education system.

I will reform our spending programs so that the people closest to our children – teachers and principles – can make spending decisions that make sense. Right now, too much is decided by bureaucrats in Sacramento.

Finally, I’ll reward outstanding teachers and those in key areas such as math and science.

My goal is nothing short of bringing California’s schools back to number one. It’s an audacious goal. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen right away. But it has to happen during the next decade. The prosperity of California and the strength of our nation depend on our success at reclaiming educational excellence.

I hope you’ve noticed that the theme of my campaign is A New California. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well Californians seem like the phrase. After campaign events, people will come up to me just to talk about what A New California means to them. And this has been really interesting.

For most of the older Californians I meet, A New California means the California they grew up in… the idealized California of the past… where jobs were plentiful, schools were strong, the roads were new, taxes were under control, and California seemed to have its act together. Our state was the envy of the world.  Our leaders seemed honest and bold. Things were better, safer, less confused and more optimistic.

For younger people, the phrase speaks to the future. They talk about how they want things to be. And guess what?  They talk about honest and bold leaders. Plentiful jobs. They want strong schools and better roads.  They want to be able to afford an education. They love technology and its ability to change things. They want things to be better and safer. They want to be optimistic.

Californians young and old want the same thing – they want California to be great again. They want their communities to be strong and safe. They want jobs that pay well and give them a chance to enjoy the American dream. They want government in its proper place. 

Most of all, Californians want to know that if they work hard and play by the rules, really terrific things will happen. That the future can always be better than today, and that California’s best days are ahead, not behind.

I’m asking for your help. I need your support. Creating A New California is a daunting challenge. Too much has gone wrong for too long. But there’s so much than can go right. 

For generations, Californians have shown that they’re wired for innovation, courage, and compassion. Our struggles have been the struggles of our nation, and California’s success has defined the American experience.

If today’s generation can come together to uproot old habits, old ways of thinking, and old ways of doing business, then we will change the world.

I look forward to building A New California with you. Thank you so much for having me here today.   ###

Photos: At top, California's Capitol in Sacramento. Credit: Associated Press. At bottom, Meg Whitman. Credit: the Whitman campaign