eBay's Meg Whitman Says It's Time to Reboot California

Republican gubernatorial candidate says she has "spine of steel" for the job.

ByABC News
November 18, 2009, 4:58 PM

SOUTH EL MONTE, Calif. Nov. 19, 2009— -- Republican Meg Whitman has never held office and only rarely voted, but the former eBay CEO's campaign for governor of California features a disciplined focus on three elements: creating jobs, cutting spending and improving education.

"Focus is incredibly important," Whitman told ABC News. "You can't do too many things with the Legislature. ... So, I promise you, every day, I am going to talk about jobs, spending, and education."

Whitman, who sat down Tuesday with ABC News after unveiling her Latino Coalition at El Cielito Restaurant in South El Monte, Calif., thinks her three-part agenda is necessary not only to put 2 million Californians back to work but also to expand the Republican share of the electorate among women, Latinos, and young voters.

To stop California from losing jobs to neighboring states, Whitman promises to impose a moratorium on new regulations.

"The Legislature has become a bill factory," said Whitman, referring to the Democratic-controlled Assembly and state Senate. "Two-thousand four-hundred bills this year alone. None of it is on point to the process that we're in. Let's stop adding new things. Let's sort out what we have."

Read the full transcript of ABC News' interview with Meg Whitman.

Whitman also wants to use the governor's executive power to put a one-year moratorium on AB 32, the climate bill which was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican.

Whitman, who has signed a no new taxes pledge, is also promising to pursue a series of tax cuts including reductions on the middle class, capital gains, and R&D.

She has not yet specified exactly how much taxes would come down or precisely how she would pay for this costly promise.

On the spending front, Whitman is promising to take a state workforce of 350,000 and "skinny it down" by 40,000. Beyond reducing "head count," she also wants to achieve an additional, unspecified $15 billion in cuts to state spending.

"When you shrink the size of a workforce, there is pain there," she added. "But there is no question: we have a government that we can no longer afford."

Asked if she would seek to reduce state spending by modifying the state's "Three Strikes" law which can result in 25-years-to-life prison sentences even if the "third strike" is a non-violent offense, Whitman ruled it out. She also opposes other sentencing reforms which would result in shorter sentences for non-violent offenders.

One reform she would consider in the area of the Department of Corrections is moving the state's prisoners out of state to lower the cost of housing them.

"I'd be trying to place them in neighboring states," said Whitman. "The cost of housing a prisoner in California is $49,000 a year ... the average in the United States is $25,000."

To improve an educational system which ranks 48th out of 50 states in the nation, Whitman wants to bring to California a package of reforms which were championed in Florida by former Gov. Jeb Bush (R).

"For big, diverse states that have done a better job than California, all roads lead to Florida," said Whitman. "That's why I went down to visit (Jeb Bush) and his staff that pioneered this reform effort in Florida. And actually, that's where I got these three ideas: (1) grading every single public school; (2) more charter schools; and (3) paying better teachers more."

Whitman also wants to push budget and decision-making authority away from Sacramento and down to individual schools. Accomplishing this, she says, will require taking a tougher line with the powerful California Teachers Association.

"Republicans should own education because we can take a stand that is not in lockstep" with the unions, said Whitman.