Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown said this morning that he opposes furloughing state workers to cope with the budget crisis while accusing current legislators of not dealing with the mess until the last minute.
Brown made the comments on his weekly call in to San Francisco radio station KGO where he was also asked about his use of a state plane as attorney general and of the state pension he would receive when he retires. Listen to the call here, which starts around time mark 42:30.
When asked by host Ed Baxter about furloughs, Brown responded, "No, I don't think as a general practice furloughs are not the best way to go. And secondly, because the Legislature doesn't produce a budget on time, I don't think that's grounds for holding the state workers responsible."
He went on to speculate about possible solutions to the budget mess, including taking budget issues to the ballot box.
"Look, they've got to make the cuts," Brown said of state leaders. "They've got to find, whatever they can do. Move functions in local government, find some fees ... talk to Obama, get some more bailout. Their back is to the wall, and the reason is they didn't make the hard decisions in January or February when they could have gone to the voters to ask to be relieved of certain constitutional mandates or to let the voters vote on some choices about what they want or don't want in state and local government."
Brown was then asked about reports that he had used a state turboprop plane over 15 days after becoming attorney general in 2007, including to two events attended by donors to his campaigns.
"Oh, that's ridiculous," Brown said of the criticism. "The fact is I took a few, a handful of rides on the state plane for official events. I spoke to the hospital people. I spoke to land developers about the important greenhouse gas, elegant density, concentration near places, things like BART. Look, I went to funerals of officers, highway patrol, that was mostly what it was, gang take-downs. Very few. ... I'm on Southwest coach, senior fare. Meg's got private jets. She used the jet more than any other chief executive at eBay."
Brown also addressed questions about his state pension, which his campaign said would total $78,450 if he were to retire next year.
"If every state worker worked as long as I did, to the age of 72, the pension funds would have so much money, they could start lending it to China," Brown said.
Brown also suggested his Republican rival Meg Whitman's well-funded campaign was fueling some of the speculation.
"Whitman has 100 people," Brown said. "So they've got to do something. They've got to keep them working. I assume they can find time to listen to KGO and maybe send a few e-mails in."
Whitman's campaign was clearly paying attention this morning. One press aide called three Bee reporters this morning shopping its response to Brown's comments while noting that Brown had called into the station half an hour late because he was out jogging.
"I forgot it was Thursday," the day of his regular call into the station, Brown had said.
So without further ado, from Whitman spokesman Darrel Ng:
"Not only can Jerry Brown not keep the days of the week straight, but he's also having trouble keeping his story straight," Ng said. "He first claimed that his use of the state plane was for law enforcement purposes, but now revealed that he's flown to luxury resorts to speak to donors, lobbyists and other political patrons. He also boasted that he doesn't currently take a pension because he's 'in the system,' but his campaign admitted that he collected more than $150,000 in state pensions while serving as Oakland mayor. This is the type of maneuvering you get from a typical Sacramento politician, and no one should be surprised because Jerry Brown has been avoiding accountability for 40 years."
One piece of context: The $150,000 collected was over Brown's eight years as Oakland mayor. He had a $20,000 annual pension then but stopped receiving it once becoming attorney general in 2006.
Photo: Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee