MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
June 24, 2009 7:15 AM
A GOP member seeking the party's nomination for governor in next year's election spoke in Montecito Tuesday evening about the state's economic present and future.
Tom Campbell, a business professor at UC Berkeley, presented an aggressive plan to the Montecito Republican Party for balancing the state's budget.
His plan comprises strict saving by the state for 10 years followed by limiting each year's spending to the previous year's revenue.
'''Don't spend more than we have' shouldn't be such a shocking statement,'' said Mr. Campbell, who presented evidence that even if California ceased all borrowing, it would take 84 years to pay off its debt.
Mr. Campbell expects to run against GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poisner in the primary, and though he said he supports his fellow party members, he is confident that he is the best one to manage the economy.
"I have worked on nine federal budgets, I have been California's budget director, I worked on the budget committee for two years as a state senator and the National Taxpayers Union Foundation voted me the cheapest out of 435 in the 102nd Congress," he said.
"I'm knowledgeable, and I am disposed to spend less," he added, "and no one can match me on that."
Mr. Campbell was adamant that "in the long run, the answer is not to raise taxes. The long run requires fiscal discipline."
Mr. Campbell said that the Republican Party's future is grim.
"It's in trouble," he said. "There's no national leader, no national spokesperson. There's tension between social and fiscal conservatives."
He added that he considers himself to be a fiscal conservative and social moderate.
"I'm libertarian socially, which I always thought the Republican Party should be," he said. "Less government interfering in people's lives."
On hand at the event were Santa Barbara County Republican higher-ups Mike Stoker and Gregory Gandrud. While neither endorsed one candidate over another to succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ousted Democrat Gray Davis in a recall, they were both supportive of Mr. Campbell.
"He's very impressive," said Mr. Gandrud, chair of the Santa Barbara County Republican Party. "He's a professor so he's so knowledgeable. The nuts and bolts economist stuff, I like that."
Mr. Stoker, who is running for the Assembly, was also supportive of the gubernatorial hopeful.
"I've known Tom for eight years," he said. "If he was to become governor, it would be a great state."
Mr. Stoker also said that "voters need to send a message that we will live within our means."
One audience member asked why, if a balanced budget could be achieved tomorrow, a hard spending freeze was not being implemented by the state's government.
"We can't get it past the legislature, which is two-thirds Democrat," said Mr. Campbell in one of the few moments he showed partisan stripes. He added, "The Republicans would do it."
On a national level, Mr. Campbell said that the federal debt is higher than it ever has been, but he does not place all the responsibility on President Obama.
He pointed out that the president added the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the budget for the first time, saying, "They should have been there before because they're expenses. Necessary expenses, but still expenses."
He also refused to blame all of California's debt on the Democratic Party.
"I will take plenty of blame in the GOP," he said. "There have been two Republican governors in the time that this debt has accumulated."
He said that the state's economic situation will only be improved with "a strong governor who is willing to use the line item veto."
"I'm running for governor because I want to do what's best for my state," he said.
Mr. Campbell said that his priority lies with California's "financial stability, responsibility and honesty" above all else except public safety.