Jerry Brown - Meg Whitman debate: All the topics during tonight’s live coverage


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Opening statements

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman were asked to tell California citizens what they must do for California.


Whitman said she and her husband moved to California 30 years ago as newlyweds, and said they lived ‘the California dream. ... Today, what I see is the California dream is broken. I want to bring that California dream alive.’

Whitman said we have ‘a government we can no longer afford’ and talked about ‘tough trade-offs.’

Brown said ‘we do have to make some tough decisions, we have to live within our means.’ He said ‘we can’t scapegoat’ immigrants, public employees or other groups. ‘We must rise above the poisonous partisanship,’ he said. ‘We have to think as Californians first.’

Brown disavowed the notion of California as a failed state as an ‘East Coast’ idea. The debate is being moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.

Are voters unrealistic about government spending?

The second question from Tom Brokaw is about whether voters have become “utterly unrealistic” about what can be cut from government spending without affecting services.


Meg Whitman said “the voters of California have the right instinct” and that billions can be cut.

“We need to shrink the size of government,” she said, specifically naming public pensions, welfare and the need to “use technology to do more with less.”

Jerry Brown took a different tack, saying: “We’re all unrealistic when it comes to pain or sacrifice or hard choices.”

He said that, as governor, he would lead by example: ‘Those at the top should cut first.’

Proposition 13

The candidates were asked about their position on Proposition 13, which Tom Brokaw called ‘a sacred cow’ and whether they were willing to reform it.

‘Proposition 13 is absolutely essential to the future of California and I want to defend Proposition 13,’ Meg Whitman said. ‘The really only sustainable way to create more tax revenues is to create more jobs.’


Whitman said she would cut taxes and streamline regulations to create more tax revenue for the state.

Brown, who was governor when Proposition 13 was passed, also said he was in no hurry to change the law.

‘There’s no sacred cows over the long term. We have to look at things,’ Brown said. But he said he would abide by the existing law. ‘A lot of the problem of 13,’ Brown said, is that ‘the state took over more and more power. ... I would do my utmost to return authority and decision-making to the locals.’


The first direct confrontation of the debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman came over taxes.

Whitman touted her plan to cut capital gains taxes.

“It’s a tax on jobs, it’s a tax on job creators and it’s a tax on investments,” she said.

But then Brown turned to Whitman and asked: “How much money will you save” under such a plan?


Whitman didn’t give a specific answer, but turned the tables on Brown, saying her plan would create jobs and, “You have been part of the war on jobs ... for 40 years.”

The budget

Tom Brokaw called the California budget a budget of ‘smoke and mirrors’ and pressed Jerry Brown to talk about what he would propose as governor.

Brown said he wanted to fast-track the budget process, starting ‘two weeks after the election,’ even before he’s sworn in.

‘I want to take it on the road,’ he said. ‘I think we have to articulate in a very clear way, what is California government.’

‘I want to see the governor cut 10 to 15% of his budget,’ he said.

Whitman said ‘the next governor has to have a plan,’ and criticized Brown for not having one.


‘It will be the same old same old’ if Brown is elected, she said.

‘I’ve got a very detailed plan,’ said Whitman, who also talked about wanting to ‘engage the Legislature.’

‘I’ve got 30 years of experience of balancing budgets and using technology,’ she added.

Public pensions

The next question was about public pensions.

Jerry Brown said: “We need a two-tier pension system,” with lower retirement benefits for future employees.

For current employees, he said: “They can contribute more to their pension.”

Meg Whitman went on the offensive saying: “It’s a little bit do as I say, not as I do,” criticizing Brown’s record as mayor of Oakland.

She then took on pensions at the state’s universities: “The pensions have gotten so big for all the faculty and staff that it’s squeezing out the students.”


She said she supported 401(k)-style retirements for public rank-and-file employees.

Greenhouse gas laws

Meg Whitman was asked about her opposition to Proposition 23, which would all but repeal the state’s greenhouse gas law.

She repeated her familiar answer that she supports a one-year suspension of the law, but not the measure on the November ballot.

‘AB 32 is going to do real damage to the 97% of the jobs in the rest of the economy,’ she said. ‘So, I called for a one-year moritorium on AB 32.’

‘We can be green and smart,’ she said, but we must be mindful of record-high unemployment. ‘What’s wrong with taking a pause?’ she asked.

Brown said Whitman was trying to have it both ways and that her proposal creates ‘regulatory uncertainty.’ He touted his plan to produce 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy in the state. ‘The people who are crying are two big oil companies in Texas and a petrochemical company in the Midwest,’ a reference to the funders of the Yes on 23 campaign.


The ‘whore’ comment

One of the sharpest moments in the debate came after moderator Tom Brokaw broached the recent recording of someone on Jerry Brown’s campaign calling Meg Whitman a “whore” during an endorsement phone call.

Brown began by dismissing the recording, calling it a “5-week-old private conversation” before eventually offering a half-hearted apology to Whitman for the “garbled transmission.”

She didn’t accept it. “It’s not just me but the people of Califonria who deserve better than slurs,” Whitman said.

The remark, she said, was “not befitting of the office you are running for.”

Brown began to defend the recording again, saying he was “not even sure it’s legal,” suggesting the campaign had not consented to being recorded. Brown’s former communications director, in his attorney general’s office, resigned after secretly recording interviews with reporters.

Whitman’s wealth and voting record


Moderator Tom Brokaw has asked Meg Whitman why she is using her fortune -- $120 million and counting – to run for governor when she didn’t vote for most of her life.

“I am not proud of my voting record,” Whitman said, as she repeatedly has stated on the campaign trail.

Whitman said she will come to Sacramento “with no strings attached” to special interests, if elected governor.

She accused Jerry Brown of being in the pocket of the state’s public employee unions.

Brown said he has stood up to unions, both as mayor of Oakland and during his previous time as governor.


Meg Whitman was asked again about her employment of an undocumented immigrant for more than nine years.


‘If you couldn’t find someone in your home was undocumented or illegal, how do you expect businesses to do it?’ asked moderator Tom Brokaw.

Whitman called for an ‘e-verify system’ to make sure the documents presented by immigrants are valid. She said she wants to give more resources to secure the nation’s border and restart a guest-worker program. She also talked about her opposition to Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Jerry Brown said it was a federal responsibility and that asking local police officers to raid businesses was a waste of time.

‘The biggest problem here is we have millions of people who are here illegally. They’re in the shadows,’ Brown said, calling for comprehensive federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for workers who are in the country illegally but otherwise play by the rules.

Brown said Whitman’s firing of Nicandra Diaz Santillan was ‘kind of a sorry tale,’ noting that ‘after nine years, she didn’t even get her a lawyer.’

Gay marriage


The candidates were asked to rank the importance of Proposition 8 on a scale of one to 10.

Neither did.

Meg Whitman said Jerry Brown ‘needs to defend that lawsuit,’ to try to uphold the state’s gay marriage ban.

Brown said ‘I’m following the precedent of a prior attorney general,’ and said he believes Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Brown called Proposition 8 ‘so fundamentally wrong.’

President Obama

The candidates were asked about President Obama’s job performance.

Jerry Brown said Obama is ‘coming to campaign with me and I’m very happy about that.’

Brown’s campaign said Obama would be in California to campaign with Brown next week.

Meg Whitman said she would stay away from Sarah Palin when she visits California later this week.


Whitman said she supported Mitt Romney and John McCain during the campaign, ignoring the fact that Palin was McCain’s running mate during the 2008 presidential election.


Recap: Harsh words mark wild final gubernatorial debate

Sparks fly over ‘whore’ comment

Debate question on immigration