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Our View: Some names to watch for Nov. 2

Posted: October 21, 2010 9:47 p.m.
Updated: October 22, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Here’s our take on a few of the key races that will be decided on the first Tuesday in November.

State controller isn’t exactly a glamorous job. He (or she) is the state’s accountant. The controller cuts the paychecks and audits the state’s books.

You don’t usually read much about the state controller unless the state is in a financial crisis. So you’ve read a lot about the controller lately.

You read about state Controller John Chiang most recently when he balked at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s orders to cut state workers to minimum wage until the Legislature got its act together and passed a budget.

Showing solidarity with the public labor unions that funded his 2006 election, Chiang said “No.”

Schwarzenegger and Chiang went to court. Schwarzenegger won.

It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t the second time. It was the third time in as many years.

In 2008, when the Legislature was gridlocked, Schwarzenegger ordered a state pay cut, and Chiang said no. Last year in the same situation, Schwarzenegger ordered furloughs, and Chiang said no.

Both times, Chiang lost in court.

Chiang has been a good representative of public employee unions, and if you’re a member, you’ve got the right guy in that office.

On the other hand, if you’re a small-business owner or a private-sector worker bee, you might want to consider someone a little more likely to watch out for the taxpayers. OK, a lot more likely.

That person is Tony Strickland. If you live in the western SCV, you might know him. He’s your state senator.

In the Senate, Strickland has fought for pension reform, spending caps and tax cuts — earning him the endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

His claim to legislative fame actually came in 2001, when he sued then-Gov. Gray Davis to expose the long-term electricity contracts that deepened California’s energy meltdown. The contracts were renegotiated, saving the state $6 billion.

That’s the sort of thing the state controller is supposed to do. Beyond cutting paychecks, the controller is supposed to audit every department to make sure they aren’t buying $450 screwdrivers or approving pensions for politicians from cities such as Bell. (The controller also sits on the state pension board, CalPERS.)

Strickland didn’t just wake up one day and decide he wanted to be controller. He first tried for the position in 2006, knowing it’s an important cog in the wheel of taxpayer protection if used properly.

Strickland lost to Chiang in 2006. It was an anti-Bush midterm election year. Republican Schwarzenegger ran as an outsider and had no coattails to ride.

This could be Strickland’s year. It’s an anti-Obama year. Strickland was an early ally of Meg Whitman. If Whitman wins, the two would work together, and they could be a formidable force.

If Jerry Brown wins, Strickland could be a crucial counterweight to a pro-labor government.

Strickland is ahead in the money game, he’s got a record as a taxpayer watchdog, and he has shown his commitment to the position. We believe he has earned it.

Attorney general
Attorney General Steve Cooley. Doesn’t that sound great?

His opponent for the position vacated by Jerry Brown is Kamala Harris, district attorney for the city and county of San Francisco.

We don’t really know much about her other than what we read, such as her decision not to seek the death penalty for the murderer of a San Francisco police officer.

The issue came up in the pair’s only debate. Harris lashed back at Cooley for his refusal to take a stand on Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

To which we say, so what? We aren’t hiring Cooley so he can prosecute greenhouse gases.

We’re hiring him so he can do for the state what he has done so well for Los Angeles County.

When sheriff’s deputy and Saugus resident David March was brutally executed by a third-time-repeat illegal alien in 2002, Cooley vowed he wouldn’t sleep until Armando Garcia was rotting in hell.

Today, thanks to Cooley’s tenacity, Garcia is firmly ensconced in a California prison. He will rot there the rest of his life.

We could go on at length about Steve Cooley’s crime-fighting record as L.A. County District Attorney — but we won’t.

You know what to do. The decision is easy and clear.

Cooley should be the next attorney general of the great state of California.

State Board Of Equalization
Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, says his chief opponent is “an attorney for the Franchise Tax Board who goes after taxpayers,” and that’s really not a bad way to put it.

The Democratic nominee for the open position on the State Board of Equalization, Chris Parker, is a Franchise Tax Board attorney who has seen all sorts of scoundrels get away with all manner of tax-dodging schemes.

Parker is tired of it, and he thinks that if the state’s three taxing agencies — the tax board, the Board of Equalization and the Employment Development Department — would communicate more effectively with each other, they could close the noose on tax dodgers and collect as much as $8 billion in overdue taxes.

We think there is merit to the argument, but it’s way too little and far too late for that. We think there is a much better way to accomplish the goal. Eliminate the darned thing.

We’re not kidding. Rolling together the state’s separate taxing authorities (including the fee-collecting arm of the DMV) was a key point in the governor’s 2004 plan to overhaul California’s governmental systems.

Doing so would close the loopholes on tax dodgers and eliminate hundreds of duplicative functions.

Of course, it would mean cutting the state’s payroll, and that is why Schwarzenegger’s plan died a certain and immediate death. It ran afoul with a job-sheltering Legislature and entrenched bureaucrats such as Parker who would lose their cushy positions.

Maybe that’s why Parker seems upset that Runner is poised to ascend to the position he covets, where Runner can work from the inside to achieve the type of reform California needs.

After all, it was Runner who carried the bill to eliminate the Franchise Tax Board in the first place.

Santa Clarita Valley residents know George Runner well. He has been a fine representative of our community, both in the Assembly and state Senate. Along the way, he has fought for California on two separate fronts.

The crime-fighting front has gotten him the most ink over the years. Runner was the political architect of the California Amber Alert, the state’s child abduction notification system. Then in 2006, with his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, he wrote Jessica’s Law, which gave communities such as Santa Clarita the right to keep sex offenders away from our children.

Meanwhile, he has been an ardent tax fighter, pushing legislation to keep businesses from fleeing the state and taking jobs away with them.

As the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association said in its endorsement of Runner this year, “Not only has he received the highest marks on our report card; his knowledge of the state budget and tax policy makes him the ideal candidate for a seat on the California Board of Equalization.”

Runner is the type of public servant who gives politicians a good name — and that is the rarest of rarities. We are proud to endorse him for Board of Equalization.


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