Tom Campbell rolls out federal budget plan

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell just held a conference call with reporters to walk us through his federal budget plan, which would produce a $562 billion deficit in FY 2011 – far less than the $1.27 trillion deficit contemplated by President Obama’s plan.

The White House’s budget would let non-defense discretionary spending grow from $581 billion this fiscal year to $670 billion in the next. Campbell wants to cap it at this year’s level, perhaps by eliminating $3 billion in annual spending on corn ethanol subsidies and by selling off Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Of $585 billion in not-yet-spent economic stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Campbell would take half and use it to cut payroll taxes for employers hiring new employees who’ve been out of work for at least two months. And rather than spending another $100 billion on the jobs bill now making its way through Congress, Campbell would redirect that money to pay down the national debt.

He’d do the same with $200 billion in money returned by banks from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); President Obama wants to spend that money to stimulate small-bank lending.

And he’d trim $45 billion out of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by letting them grow only enough to cover all who are eligible and to keep up with the general inflation rate. Instead of presuming Medicaid will cover everything, he calls for using this money and the states’ contributions to buy insurance policies for the eligible at a fixed price, flexing the government’s buying-power muscle to get a better deal.

“Overall, you have to say this is how much we have to spend, and no more,” he said, adding he rejects President Obama’s proposals to impose a fee on banks bailed out by TARP and to let the Bush Administration’s tax cuts for the rich expire. “I think that would be a mistake in the current economic circumstances.”

GOP Senate primary rival Carly Fiorina has blasted Campbell for having supported tax increases at times in the past. He said today that as a gubernatorial candidate last year he proposed $3 in spending cuts for every $1 he’d have raised through a temporary gas-tax increase, and had his plan been adopted, Californians would be better off.

But the state and federal budgets are like apples and oranges, he said; the state can’t print money, yet must maintain prisons, schools, roads and other programs without fail.

Asked about Fiorina’s now-notorious “demon sheep” Web video, Campbell said his only reply is “this news conference and the substantive work I’ve done on the budget, that returns the campaign to serious discourse.” (Of course, today’s high road aside, it was only a few days ago that his campaign had some choice words for Fiorina’s ad, and that Campbell himself touted it as a fundraising aid.)

He wouldn’t announce any fundraising numbers, although he said it’s going “exceptionally well” – many who weren’t supporting him for governor are now supporting him for the Senate. He’s contemplating doing fundraising events in New York and Washington, D.C., he said, but no dates have been set yet.

UPDATE @ 4:37 P.M.: Fiorina is irked by Campbell’s comments. From campaign spokeswoman Julie Soderlund:

“It’s encouraging to see that Tom Campbell has finally realized what a huge problem his well-documented and long-standing support for higher taxes is going to be in this campaign. What is also going to be a problem is his continued attempts to misrepresent his record and deceive voters. Unfortunately, facts are stubborn things, and the facts in this case are clear: Carly does not support higher taxes on the Internet or otherwise. Tom Campbell supports taxing the Internet – and has for a long time – and he also supports higher gas taxes, sales taxes, car taxes, and the list goes on.”

Actually, Campbell didn’t say his support of last year’s unsuccessful Proposition 1A – which would’ve coupled a spending cap and a rainy-day fund with one- or two-year extensions in sales, income and car tax hikes – was “a huge problem.” He called it a show of “pragmatism” in which he believed “the overall good is worth the short-term harm,” and he said he believes most Republican voters would agree.

As for Fiorina not supporting “higher taxes on the Internet or otherwise,” I’m not sure how that jibes with the report filed yesterday by KGO television’s Mark Matthews, which said Fiorina in June 2000 acknowledged “(i)t’s not realistic of our industry to stand and say this taxation should never be applied to e-commerce,” and urged states to “(b)ring our taxation system into the modern age so that we can tax in a fair way both on line and offline transactions.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.