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Clinton claim in Whitman ad is false, state says

The California Department of Finance says overall state taxes went down when Brown was governor, not up. Whitman campaign says it won't halt the ad featuring video of the former president.

September 11, 2010|By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times

A claim in a Meg Whitman television ad that state taxes went up when Democratic rival Jerry Brown was governor from 1975 to 1983 is false, according to the state Department of Finance.

"Taxes went down, by this yardstick, yes," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the department, who added that the figures are the result of an impartial, nonpartisan analysis of the data. "The data you have in front of you does not have an R suffix or a D suffix after them. The Department of Finance calculated these numbers in a consistent manner over Republican and Democratic administrations."

The Republican gubernatorial nominee's 30-second television ad, which was unveiled Thursday, features 1992 footage of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton slamming Brown's claim that he lowered taxes as governor. The video came from a Democratic primary debate that featured both men.

"CNN. Not me, CNN says his assertion about his tax record was, quote, just plain wrong," Clinton says in the ad. "He raised taxes as governor of California…. He doesn't tell the people the truth."

Palmer said CNN apparently used the wrong years for its analysis.

Brown took office in January 1975, midway through the 1974-75 fiscal year. The first budget under his command covered the 1975-76 fiscal year. The CNN report appeared to use the 1973-74 year at its baseline.

According to Department of Finance data available in 1992, total state taxes when Brown took office were $7.03 per every $100 in income. He left office in January 1983, so his last budget covered the 1982-83 fiscal year. Taxes then were $6.83 per every $100 in income.

The state adjusts its figures annually as it receives new information about the economy, personal income and population. Since the 1992 report aired, the numbers for Brown's years have changed slightly but still show a decline in taxes, from $6.89 to $6.56 per each $100 in income.

The Brown campaign, which has denied the accuracy of the Whitman ad since it began airing, said the GOP candidate should cancel it.

"The clear and obvious right thing to do is for Meg Whitman to take down an ad that doesn't tell the truth," said spokesman Sterling Clifford.

The Whitman campaign declined.

"That's ridiculous," said Darrel Ng, a Whitman spokesman, who refused to comment on the issues raised by the Department of Finance.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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