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Candidate Criticizes Davis Over Leadership

Politics: Bill Jones, who is seeking GOP nomination, attacks governor on tax issue.

January 10, 2002|TIM REITERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Secretary of State Bill Jones accused Gov. Gray Davis of failing to show leadership in the state's energy crisis and current fiscal predicament and predicted that the governor will allow substantial tax increases if he is reelected.

Jones, the only Republican statewide officeholder and a candidate for his party's gubernatorial nomination, said Davis mismanaged the energy crisis last year and turned a budget surplus into a projected $12-billion shortage by overspending.

Although Davis told the Legislature in his State of the State address Tuesday that he would not advocate any new taxes, Jones said the governor stopped short of pledging to refuse to sign a budget with a tax increase.

He said Davis will turn to tax increases to pay for 34,510 positions created in the last three years, representing a 12% average staffing increase in state agencies.

"That is unsustainable under anybody's analysis," Jones told radio and television news editors here.

He said the governor has failed to balance a single budget in three years, while the cost of government has grown 36%.

"That's just not true," said Davis campaign spokesman Roger Salazar. All three budgets, he said, were balanced, and this past year the state set aside a record $2.6 billion in reserves.

"This is a candidate who was lagging so far behind in his primary race that he has resorted to name calling instead of offering any substantive solutions of his own," Salazar said of Jones.

The growth in state government, Salazar said, was in response to legitimate needs. "Our education, transportation and public safety systems were in need of attention," he said.

Davis called on lawmakers to close the budget gap with cutbacks, deferred spending, internal borrowing and "accelerated revenue." He said he planned a $678-million bond package for public works projects to stimulate the economy.

But Jones scoffed at that, saying Davis did not provide a plan for eliminating the deficit.

As part of his own plan, Jones said that as governor he would cut funding for the positions created under Davis and refinance a portion of the state debt.

Jones, who is competing with former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and businessman Bill Simon in the March 5 primary, is the poorest of the candidates, with about $1.3 million in his campaign war chest. So far, he has relied heavily on news media coverage to sustain his candidacy.

Riordan on Wednesday reached out to a gay and lesbian advocacy group, citing his record of supporting domestic partner benefits and promising to be sensitive to their concerns if elected governor.

"What I'm hoping to do, and will do, is to create a Republican Party that is inclusive--inclusive in our leadership of people like gays, lesbians and women, and make it a party ... that's not ideological, but that cares for everybody," Riordan told several hundred members of Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality in West Hollywood.

As mayor, Riordan supported domestic partner benefits for city employees and issued a directive prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He said he would consider expanding the state's domestic benefits law as governor.

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Times staff writer Matea Gold in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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