Politics & Government

Brown, Whitman trade barbs in first gubernatorial debate

DAVIS — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown attacked Republican rival Meg Whitman as a defender of the state's richest people while Whitman called Brown a shill for state public employee unions during the candidates' first debate, held Tuesday at UC Davis.

The 60-minute faceoff also saw Brown, a 72-year-old former governor, calling his age an asset in the state's top job. Whitman, the former CEO of online auction firm eBay, billed herself as a break from business as usual in Sacramento.

Both made downsizing state government and reining in spending central to their campaign platforms, with Whitman and Brown offering different ideas on how to bridge budget deficits.

Whitman repeated her pledge to put new state employees on 401(k)-type retirement plans, as opposed to defined-benefit pensions, and to "attack welfare." She has said, however, that she would allow public safety employees, except prison guards, to continue receiving fixed-benefit pensions.

Brown criticized that exception during the debate as proof that "when powerful forces come, she'll cave."

"We've got to attack the cost side of government," Whitman said. "We should go to a two-year budgeting cycle (to end) this business of constantly having our back against the wall, not having the ability to think longer term than three to six months out."

Brown said he would cut 15 percent to 20 percent out of the Governor's Office and ask the Legislature and state agencies to do the same."

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