For California taxpayers, a clear choice in governor’s race

Patrick Gleason Director of State Affairs, Americans for Tax Reform
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A Wall Street Journal profile of Meg Whitman concluded a year ago that the “danger for her is if the primary or general election turns into a referendum on inexperienced celebrity governors who failed to deliver—in other words, on Arnold.”

Not coincidentally, early last month her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown’s campaign commenced a concerted and effective effort to compare Whitman to Governor Schwarzenegger. During the campaign’s final stretch, Brown has continued to compare Whitman’s lack of political experience to the unpopular Schwarzenegger’s, arguing that Californians would be as dissatisfied with the former eBay CEO as they are with Schwarzenegger.

I say, let’s talk about experience. To be sure, both have a great deal of it, just of a very different sort.

Rather than spend her life running for elected office, asking donors for money, and answering to the demands of the public employee unions and trial lawyers that run Sacramento, as Jerry Brown has, Meg Whitman spent her professional career contributing to America’s GDP.

After serving in management and executive positions at iconic companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Hasbro, and Disney, Whitman took the helm of eBay, where she increased the payroll from 30 employees to 15,000 and doubled annual revenues in just a decade. For her achievements, Fortune twice dubbed Whitman the most powerful woman in business and in 2008 she was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame.

Whitman’s decorated career in the business world and tech sector separates her from her opponent, Brown, a septuagenarian career politician who once remarked that he views computers as “aspects of a degenerate economic system.” Yes, this is a person who wants to be chief executive of the state that’s home to Silicon Valley.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel recently noted, Americans have spent the last two years governed by a White House and Congress “staffed with career politicians,” like Jerry Brown, “who have insisted that government can solve all.” Unhappy with the ensuing negative results, economic stagnation and continued dysfunction, voters are looking for candidates with real-world experience, and recent polling reflecting this sentiment should be seen as a reason for Whitman supporters to remain optimistic in the campaign’s final hours.

According to a recent Independent Women’s Voice survey, 63% of independent voters prefer someone from the business community, like Whitman, over an experienced politician, of which Brown is the archetype. Such findings are especially significant in California, where twenty percent of the electorate is comprised of independents.

Furthermore, despite Brown’s lifelong experience in state government, Whitman has painted a clearer picture of her policy agenda and plans to restore solvency and prosperity in the Golden State. Nowhere is the contrast more stark or important than on fiscal issues.

Most notably, Meg Whitman is the only one of the two who has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, promising to oppose and veto all tax increases, something Schwarzenegger and Brown never did.

Government overspending and profligacy have brought California to the financial brink, not a lack of tax revenue. By taking higher taxes off the table, Whitman makes it evident that she recognizes this. The facts support her position.

A Reason Foundation study found that state spending in California has grown unsustainably over the past two decades, tripling from 1990 to 2009. The study also found that had state spending been limited to growth in population and the consumer price index over that period, the state would have been sitting on a $15 billion surplus last year instead of a $42 billion deficit.

Indeed, Whitman recognizes California taxpayers have had a rough go of it in recent years and need a respite. Over the past two years, Congress passed more than $350 billion in higher federal taxes. Adding insult to injury, Governor Schwarzenegger approved the largest state tax increase in U.S. history just last year. Thanks to Obamacare and the federal income tax increases that kick in two months from now, California is going to be hit with a top effective marginal income tax rate in excess of 49%. Whitman is the only candidate who has wisely refused to pile on with more job-killing tax increases at the state level.

For California taxpayers, the choice at the top of tomorrow’s ticket couldn’t be clearer.

Patrick Gleason is Director of State Affairs at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).