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Meg Whitman For Governor: Campaign Official For Ex-eBay CEO (VIDEO)

JULIET WILLIAMS   09/22/09 10:14 PM ET   AP

Meg Whitman

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman officially launched her bid for governor of California on Tuesday, sketching out her ideas to return the state to a time when "California had its act together," but providing few details about how she would do it.

In her description, she recalled a golden age marked by abundant private-sector jobs, strong schools, new roads and a tax system that was under control. She said decades of poor fiscal management and a bloated government bureaucracy have pushed the state to the brink of disaster.

"California is at a tipping point. Our finances are bankrupt. Much of our society's infrastructure – the roads, the ports, the water delivery systems – is at the breaking point," she said.

She said creating jobs, cutting state spending and fixing the education system will be her top priorities.

Whitman, 53, said she would cut 40,000 jobs from the state government payroll and reduce state spending by another $15 billion. That would come on top of the 18 percent cut made to the general fund over the last two years.

In an interview with The Associated Press later Tuesday, Whitman was vague about what state programs she would cut or what employees she would eliminate to meet her goals.

She said eliminating 40,000 jobs would save $3.3 billion, and she would also seek to shrink commissions and boards, use technology better and consolidate the state's purchasing power. Whitman said she would thoroughly examine the budget to look for waste and fraud.

"Trust me, there is $15 billion at least in there," she said.

But to cut 40,000 state jobs, Whitman likely would have to make deep cuts to the state's prison workforce. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said only 100,000 jobs under the governor's control are paid from the state's general fund. About two-thirds of those are in corrections, said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

Whitman's lack of specifics also prompted criticism from her rivals for the 2010 Republican nomination.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell noted that he released a specific budget plan at the height of California's fiscal crisis earlier this year in which he detailed $17.4 billion in cuts.

"It is disappointing that more than four months later, and after a budget deal has been reached, Meg Whitman has still not announced specific spending cuts, except her proposal to fire state employees, which would save only a small fraction of what's needed to close the budget gap," Campbell, 57, said in a statement Tuesday.

The gubernatorial campaign for Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner also criticized her lack of specifics. Poizner, 52, released a detailed tax plan last week that said he would reduce personal, corporate and sales taxes by 10 percent and cut the capital gains tax in half.

"Meg can't stop announcing she is running for governor, and Jerry Brown won't announce he is running for governor," said Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Poizner.

Brown, a former California governor who is now the state's attorney general, has hinted that he may seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010.

"What would really benefit the citizens of California is if they would start announcing real solutions to the problems the state faces," Agen said Tuesday.

In Tuesday's speech, Whitman also said she would reduce some taxes to stimulate growth. She declined later to specify which taxes she would cut or by how much, saying she wants to see how the state's economy evolves in the next few months.

She said cutting the regulations that stifle business is equally as important as changing California's tax structure.

"We can manage the financials of the state with the existing tax structure. We just have to have a better handle on spending," she said.

Whitman also criticized the centerpiece accomplishment of fellow Republican, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a landmark global warming law he signed in 2006. She said she would use an executive order to stop it.

"I love California's environment. But I reject radical environmental policies that do little for the environment and devastate California's economic future," she said.

Schwarzenegger touts the law as proof that environmental regulation can also be good for the economy. He is scheduled to deliver an address on the law this Thursday in San Francisco.

The governor's spokesman called Whitman's campaign speech "political rhetoric."

"While Ms. Whitman has promoted climate change for years, including a recent cruise to the Arctic with activists, she is now promising to move the state backwards by eliminating California's landmark climate change law," McLear said.

Whitman also took a swipe at the teachers' unions that are a potent force in California politics. In the state's most troubled schools, she said, "union rules give our worst teachers a free pass."

Whitman's formal announcement was expected after months of fundraisers and campaign-style appearances around the state. A billionaire, she also has contributed $19 million of her fortune to her campaign efforts.

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Filed by Bianca Bosker  |