News > Economy
California woes will ripple: Buffett
Arnold's economic team meets as rival gubernatorial candidate Ueberroth offers detailed plans.
August 20, 2003: 3:45 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (CNN) - Actor and California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger huddled with a high-profile group of economic advisers Wednesday, including billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, who said California's financial woes had national implications.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, promised to create a "positive business environment" in California if voters oust incumbent Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and choose him to lead the state, which has the world's fifth-largest economy -- its gross output in 2002 totaled $1.3 trillion, more than France, China or Italy.

Another Republican candidate, former major league baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, formally kicked off his own gubernatorial campaign Wednesday, offering a plan to close California's budget woes that focused on tax amnesty, spending cuts and protecting a voter-imposed cap on property tax rates.

Schwarzenegger, who has been criticized for not yet offering his own plan to fix the state's problems, convened his "California Economic Recovery Council" in a Los Angeles hotel Wednesday morning. The panel included Buffett, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and Michael Boskin, former President George Bush's top economic adviser.

"We all know that California right now is going in the wrong direction," Schwarzenegger said. "We all know that businesses are leaving, and with them, the jobs are leaving."

Buffett said the state's economy is "just too big" to be allowed to continue to slump.

"If California has troubles, the country has troubles," he said. "If California prospers, the country prospers."

The presence of Buffett, a vocal critic of President Bush's tax-cut proposals earlier this year, has brought Schwarzenegger criticism from more conservative rivals, who have accused the Austrian-born actor of planning to raise taxes.

In television ads released Tuesday, Schwarzenegger again avoided specifics of how he might deal with California's economic problems, offering instead an upbeat pledge to "bring California back."

Wednesday's economic summit was closed to reporters after opening statements.

The recall was triggered by a $38 billion state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. A recent budget agreement between Democratic and Republican legislators in Sacramento eliminated the deficit through cuts and borrowing, but it created an expected shortfall of at least $8 billion for the next fiscal year.

Ueberroth called for a one-time state tax amnesty to encourage people to pay overdue taxes by suspending any penalties, which he said could bring in up to $6 billion. He also would protect California taxpayers and homeowners from any change in Proposition 13, which sets a cap on property taxes.

He also proposed cutting up to $2 billion in the general fund by imposing a hiring freeze on state employees -- which would save $200 million to $400 million -- and eliminating fraud in the state medical program MediCal. That would save about $1.5 billion, he said.  Top of page

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