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Meg Whitman: jobs are key
Standing in front of a large John Deere tractor, gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman explained to a Thursday audience at a south Modesto farm implement company that creating jobs is key to reversing California's economic plight.

Whitman made a campaign stop at San Joaquin Equipment at Crowslanding and Whitmore just outside of Ceres where she explained her strategy for turning the state around should she succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger next year. Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, is the favorite over Steve Poizner in the Republican primary for governor. Political pundits predict the November general election will come down to a race between Whitman and Jerry Brown, former Democratic governor.

Whitman's remarks - including a pledge to create 2 million jobs by 2015 - and answers to questions drew enthusiastic applause from the conservative audience of about 100 people.

"I just refuse to believe that California cannot be better than it is," said Whitman.

Whitman cited a litany of problems facing state government which are impacting lifestyles in California. She noted that 2.3 million Californians are unable to find jobs and that current infrastructure is sized for about half of the state's 37 million population with "water storage in the Central Valley being exhibit A." Whitman said the state is staring at a $20 billion budget deficit in a coming months after raising taxes $12.5 billion and $12.5 billion in spending cuts.

"We need to focus on jobs," emphasized Whitman. "Unless we fundamentally improve the business climate...there is no end to this mess."

Whitman specifically called for:

• Cutting taxes, including a tax on equipment used in manufacturing;

• Streamlining regulations;

• Reducing the state workforce;

• Reforming welfare;

• Reforming the state public employees pension system;

• Better managing state projects, citing a $5 billion cost overrun on the Bay Bridge;

• Trimming excessive spending, citing a $3.4 million highway rest stop.

• A renewed economic development effort to lure businesses into California.

Whitman touched on the hot topic of illegal immigration and told her audience that is is "100 percent against amnesty - no exceptions. But you wouldn't know that by watching my opponent's commercials." She called for securing the border with two fences - saying one she saw on a border tour was only waist high - and said as governor she wouldn't hesitate to use the National Guard.

"If we could put a man on the Moon we should be able to secure the border of the United States."

The candidate also noted that a crackdown of companies hiring illegals would take away the reason for being in the U.S. illegally. But in order to guarantee a source of labor for agriculture, Whitman said "we must have a stable guest worker program."

Saying she is "tough as nails on this issue," Whitman said she would crack down on sanctuary cities like San Francisco that look the other way when it comes to illegals.

"Legal immigration built this country."

Whitman said she would appoint business savvy persons to state agencies and commissions and use her veto to get past legislative gridlock.

She also told her audience that the state public employees retirement system needs to be overhauled to raise caps and lower expenses.

Standing with Whitman at the Modesto event were Wayne Zipser, executive manager of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau which has endorsed Whitman, and San Joaquin Equipment's general manager Benny Ray.

"You need to be able to run a business before you can govern," said the Ceres raised Zipser.