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Gubernatorial hopeful drops in
Meg Whitman told a group of Modesto business owners Thursday afternoon that she can lead California out of its colossal budget deficit problem, by taking a different tack: Lowering taxes, easing up on regulations and cutting spending.

"California can be turned around but it will require a different approach and a new leadership," said Whitman.

Whitman, 53, spoke for an hour to members of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, introducing herself, her 30-year business record and her ideas for leading a very troubled state. The former corporate leader of eBay, Hasbro, FTD and Procter & Gamble said California cannot continue to do business as usual.

"This is the most difficult state to do business," said Whitman, who noted that excessive regulation and associated costs are driving companies to other states.

California also needs to renew economic development efforts, Whitman feels, noting that the state made no attempt to keep Northrop-Grumman from leaving Long Beach for Virginia. Other governors are seizing on California's condition, she said, and attempting to lure regulation weary California businesses to their states. Whitman wants to emulate the success of Texas where lowered taxes are resulting in prosperity for businesses there. Of all new businesses formed in 2009, Texas was home to 52 percent. Noting that California has lost 600,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, Whitman is calling for a series of tax cuts, such as a sales tax charged on manufacturing equipment. She also said if she becomes governor she will seek a moratorium on all regulations and seek to streamline existing regulations.

Whitman said it was her work with the Mitt Romney and John McCain campaigns that sparked her decision to seek public office. "I decided to run because I just refuse to let California fail."

Lawmakers have mishandled the budget process, the candidate said, noting that "we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem."

Whitman said she's identified $15 billion in savings and said the next governor will not be popular with all people. She also noted that the state should locate the source of $4.2 billion in fraud in the Medi-Cal program that could be found through automation.


Whitman offered her fix for California K-12 schools, which are ranked 47 of 50 states in terms of performance. She likes the Florida method of giving every school an A through F grade. Often a poor grade will increase motivation and parental involvement at a school issued a failing grade. She wants to see parents have the option to petition for a failing school to be turned into a charter school.

She also calls for rewarding outstanding teachers and schools, eliminating the 350 count cap on charter schools, giving more control to local school boards and moving more money away from administration and overhead (40 percent) into the classroom.

California's welfare system, she said, needs to be overhauled. The state has 12 percent of the nation's population but 32 percent of the nation's welfare cases.

Other points Whitman made:

• She would overhaul the broke state pension system, including upping the retirement age from 55 to 65 and renegotiating pension plans;

• She's opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens, for sending National Guardsmen to protect the borders but not in favor of eliminating educational services to children of illegal aliens. Whitman also favors a guest worker program for Mexican nationals to work in California agriculture.

• California needs more watershed projects to ensure water for farmers.

• The early release of prisoners for the sake of prison space is wrong. California can help solve prison overcrowding by using and paying other states for unused space in their jails, noting California's costs of incarceration are much higher than other states.

• Reforming class action lawsuits and limiting liability for companies.

Whitman has dumped millions of dollars into her two-front campaign to easily outdistance Republican rival Steve Poizner for the primary election and to tackle expected Democratic opponent Jerry Brown. Whitman predicted Brown will be "a formidable competitor" with lots of political experience.