GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman gave a polished performance before The Bee's editorial board this morning, answering questions about her plans to cut $15 billion from the state budget, convert state workers to 401k retirement plans, reduce prison health care costs, bring jobs back to California and put a freeze on state regulations.
She didn't leave me convinced she had the wherewithal to carry out such reforms, and she dodged questions about whether or not she will support Prop. 23, the proposition to suspend California's global warming law. But overall, Whitman was thoughtful and concise in her answers. She didn't grandstand and she acknowledged the challenges she'd face trying to implement her agenda in a Legislature controlled by Democrats. She answered some questions I posed about her in a column Sunday.
Yet Whitman continues to cling to the fiction she can grab $1 billion out of the $2.9 billion the state spends on welfare each year, transfer it to higher education and not harm children receiving welfare. The Bee's Capitol Bureau looked at this claim this month and found it didn't add up. As The Bee noted, Whitman's plan would only affect 22 percent of the state's welfare recipients in lowering the lifetime welfare limit from five to two years. The remainder of welfare recipients are children.
"It's unlikely the state would save $1 billion in its welfare budget even if cut every adult recipient from the program," The Bee said in its Ad Watch, noting the state might also lose federal aid if it attempted such cuts.
I pressed Whitman about the fact that economic experts interview by The Bee say her proposal doesn't add up. Her answer:
"I don't know what to tell you. I have an economic team. We are looking into this. I think we can do it....It is obviously not the only savings we have to go after...But I feel very confident that it can be done."
That's not good enough. The Whitman team needs to provide some basic math of how they'd get to $1 billion through these welfare cuts, and not harm children. I gave Whitman the opportunity to explain it Monday. She passed up that chance.
You can watch clips of Whitman's performance here. On Friday, we interview Jerry Brown.
Bee photo by Hector Amezcua.