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Kashkari disses Brown: 'water and schools ... come before the high speed train'

Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari speaks in 2008.
Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari speaks in 2008.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Neel Kashkari gave interested California voters quite a bit to think about tonight in what appears to be the first and only debate with incumbent governor Jerry Brown, desperately seeking a fourth term this November.

Hitting hard at Brown's administrative record, Kashkari pointed to Brown's failure to improve California's business climate and what that means for the many Californians looking to get out of poverty and into the middle class. He cited the costs on struggling families coming in 2015 as well.

But Brown disagreed with his opponent's take on his work as governor. He said:

"California's not perfect, we've got our problems, but boy what momentum we now have."

Cap and trade

When asked about California's new global warming law and the 2015 increase in gas prices hurting already-struggling families, Brown didn't really answer the question, instead just calling it "scare tactics" and then launching a free-wheeling defense of his cap and trade program:

"We do have a cap and trade program. The reason is climate change is ... a global challenge. It's an existential threat to our way of life. Also the pollution ... from oil and coal and the other fossil fuels affect ... the asthma rates, the respiratory diseases so we have a cap on the amount of carbon that the oil companies can emit."

That only opened him up for a direct hit on the matter, as Kashkari replied:

'it is not fair'

"Make no mistake about it ... his plan is designed to raise the cost of electricity for working families, to raise the cost of your gas prices to try to make alternatives ... more competitive . It is not fair to wallop working families by raising their gas and utility prices. And then insult to injury, he's taking the money from that program to fund his high speed train which the LAO (Legislative Analyst Office) has said will not do a thing to help the climate."

In other remarks, Kashkari had some expected zingers perhaps, especially regarding the money Brown intends to keep spending on his pet project, the $68 Billion high speed train, over other needs in California, like water and schools. "Water and schools have to come before the high speed train," Kashkari said.

Jobs and the homeless

From another report on the debate, USNews reports that Kashkari made an effort this summer "to demonstrate how difficult it remains to get a job in some parts of the state" by posing as a homeless man in Fresno. Kashkari believes that Brown's lifetime in politics has left him out of touch with many Californians, and that there has been an uneven economic recovery.

More of the verbal sparring, from a report at the WashingtonTimes, included Brown's defense of spending billions of dollars on the train:

“It’s cheaper than building highways and airport runways … If we take part of that burden and put it into high-speed rail, it’ll be cheaper and cleaner. We’re not going to need more oil, we’re going to use the sun and wind, and it will help where we need jobs the most. That high-speed rail is starting in the Central Valley. That’s why the mayor of Fresno, a Republican, supports high-speed rail, because we’re creating jobs where we need it most.”

But Kashkari called it "the crazy train" and added that even Gavin Newsom, Brown's own lieutenant governor, says it "makes no sense.”

California's realignment program

California's realignment program, which is shifting thousands of low-level offenders to county jails instead of state prisons, brought more words.

Brown believes it has been a success in the first two years and the program would continue. “With Proposition 30, we guarantee billions of dollars to counties to pay for the local programs. And it is working, and that’s why the people who carry it out, the county sheriffs, endorse my campaign, along with the police.”

Kashkari disagreed. “They’re being released onto our streets, and they’re committing heinous crimes again … There’s a guy in Stockton, I hate to say these words because they’re horrible, this guy who Governor Brown released went on and robbed and raped and murdered his own grandmother. These are dangerous people that are being released onto our streets.”

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