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Tom Campbell talks budgets, taxes and demon sheep

February 11, 2010 |  4:29 pm

Former Rep. Tom Campbell took issue this afternoon with one of the few things that his GOP Senate competitors actually agree on -- their charge that he is not a true fiscal conservative because of past support for temporary state tax increases.

Campbell said he supported last May’s Proposition 1A, despite temporary income, car and sales tax increases, because it would have created permanent spending limits and a rainy-day fund.

“The overall good is worth the short-term harm,” he said.

Additionally, he noted that the state had financial commitments that had to be met, and unlike the federal government, the state cannot borrow money to balance its budget without legislative approval or print currency.

“The state has an obligation to keep schools open and to keep roads open,” he said.

Campbell’s competitors in the Republican primary, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, have been hammering Campbell about his support for such measures, notably in Fiorina’s widely viewed and widely panned “demon sheep” video. The online ad features a man wearing a sheep suit with red laser eyes who is supposed to represent Campbell as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and Fiorina’s campaign derides him as “Taxin’ Tom” and a “Fiscal Conservative in Name Only.”

Campbell largely avoided jumping into the fray over the video last week, aside from sending out a fundraising appeal about it.

On Thursday, when asked for a response, he said, “The best answer is this news conference and the substantive work that I’ve done on the budget, which hopefully returns the campaign discourse to the serious issues, to focus on the fundamental problems of our economy, our budget and our deficit and how that causes people to be unemployed. That’s what I care about deeply, that’s what I’m spending my time on, and that’s perhaps why you didn’t hear anything else from me.”

Campbell made these comments while speaking to reporters about his proposals to decrease the deficit in President Obama’s proposed budget by 56%, to $562 billion. He would achieve this reduction through a combination of creating non-defense spending caps, eliminating stimulus spending planned for the next two years as well as the proposed jobs bill, using returned bank bailout money to cut the deficit, and capping future Medicaid spending. Some of these savings would be used to eliminate proposed tax increases on banks and families earning more than $250,000, and to forgive payroll taxes for new hires.

-- Seema Mehta

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