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Poizner talks state budget, schools, water crisis in campaign for governor

Insurance commissioner speaks to small group in Livermore

State insurance commissioner Steve Poizner brought his campaign for governor to the Tri-Valley this week, expressing his ideas on the public school system, a budget solution, the state water crisis, a constitutional convention and illegal immigration.

The Los Gatos resident, who is running in the Republican primary in June, spoke to a small group of about 20 people at the Livermore Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.

It was a passion for public schools that Poizner said gave him the impetus for getting into politics. As a teacher for two years at Mt. Pleasant High School in East San Jose, he said he saw the issues on a personal level.

"We've completely mismanaged schools," he said. "I want to rip control of schools from the hands of Sacramento."

"Hiring should be done at a local level," he continued, adding that charter schools are a great example of that.

As the state is saddled with a $20-billion budget deficit, Poizner offered his own way of reducing it: reworking the tax structure, putting a freeze on funding, spending and hiring and cut spending by 10 percent. To break it down, Poizner said he would cut personal income, corporate and state income taxes by 10 percent and capital gains taxes in half. Matching that with less regulation and reworking the legal system would provide the recipe for a balanced budget.

"We want innovators and entrepreneurs to come back," he said. "This is a lawsuit crazy state and we need some tort reform."

In citing a growing state bond debt, he said he would put a debt cap of 6 percent.

After Poizner highlighted his plans, the group asked a range of questions on such topics as the state water system, a constitutional convention, energy development and illegal immigration.

When asked about desalinization plants that draw and treat seawater into drinking water, Poizner said he would like to build them in conjunction with power plants, but added that "there's a short-term crisis we have to address now" with the state's decision to lessen pumping from the Delta to protect the protected smelt fish.

"This current water crisis is man made," he said.

"One judge is ordering the pump shutdown," he continued, adding that he would sue to overturn that decision.

On the prospect of a constitutional convention, Poizner said he feels "it's another excuse for why people can't get at problems now" and that the state needs to come together with a reform package that will lead to the promotion of free markets and a smaller, more accountable government.

"We need a safety valve," he said. "We do need changes to the constitution, but minimal."

One change he proposed was converting the state legislature from full time to part time, as is done in Texas, Poizner's home state.

"That would encourage people with real world experience to run for office," he said. "It would also force them to focus on issues that matter."

When asked about his stance on energy development, Poizner said "we're crazy to be so dependent on those petro-dictators," and said he supports offshore drilling and would allow companies to use slant drilling technology, something he said would help the budget crisis.

Acknowledging that illegal immigration is rampant, Poizner said the state needs to secure its borders and supports sending the National Guard and California Highway Patrol. In addition, he said the state needs to stop offering "magnets" to those who enter the state illegally -- in the way of medical care, schooling and employment.

Poizner's only other opponent in the gubernatorial race for the Republican ticket is former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who visited Pleasanton in September.

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