POLITICS: Campaigns

GOP candidate Kashkari proposes tax breaks

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News,Business,Taxes,Republican Party,Campaigns

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A 10-year corporate tax credit for companies that move to California and create more than 100 new jobs, diverting nearly $10 billion in high-speed rail bond money to water storage projects and promoting fracking for oil and natural gas are among the policy proposals released Tuesday by Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari.

The proposals read like a wish list of proposals Republican lawmakers in the state Legislature have pushed over the last decade. Democrats hold large majorities in both houses and the governorship, making political compromises on GOP priorities difficult or even unnecessary.

Kashkari, the former U.S. Treasury official who oversaw the bank bailout at the height of the financial crisis, has said he would rely on that experience to overcome longstanding political divisions in the state capital. He noted that Troubled Asset Relief Program had bipartisan support in Congress and spanned Republican and Democratic presidential administrations.

But ideas such as reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, a complex maze of regulations that businesses and developers say stymies growth, have strong opposition and lobbying interests that have blocked most efforts to change it, including some by Democrats. Gov. Jerry Brown sought a CEQA overhaul last year but settled instead for legislation that tinkered with elements of the law.

"Neel will champion CEQA reform that ends abusive lawsuits and provides process certainty to all, not just well-connected interests that are able to win the special favor of the governor and powerful legislators," his jobs proposals says.

Kashkari said the environmental law is hurting California's ability to tap billions in revenue-generating oil and natural gas, a practice he would like to see expanded through the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Brown, a Democrat, has largely supported the practice in California's Central Valley oil region and signed legislation last year to establish the state's first rules on disclosure and permitting for fracking.

Environmentalists have been unhappy with Brown's refusal to place a moratorium on the practice and have dogged him at public events, including trying to shout him down during his address earlier this month at the Democratic Party's state convention in Los Angeles.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for the governor, did not immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment on Kashkari's proposals.

Kashkari is one of two Republicans raising money in hopes of advancing to the November general election to face Brown, who is expected to coast through the top-two primary in June. He has almost $20 million in the bank and is widely seen as having a lock on re-election.

Kashkari's other policy, economic and infrastructure proposals include:

— Establishing an "energy and environment jobs" task force to study changing technology and the ongoing effects of hydraulic fracturing.

— Sunsetting all state regulations after 10 years absent special approval from the state Little Hoover Commission, a regulatory body that does not currently have such authority.

— Asking voters to redirect nearly $10 billion they approved in 2008 for a high-speed rail system to pay for water storage projects.

— Fully use the state's existing water storage capacity by clearing sediment from existing reservoirs.

— A 10-year corporate tax moratorium for any existing California company that opens a new manufacturing facility in the state.

— Altering California employment laws to allow "flex time," in which employee overtime is calculated by the number of hours worked per week, not solely per day.

— Capping non-economic personal injury awards at $250,000, the same as the current cap on medical malpractice claims; he said that would "strengthen the jobs climate by providing more certainty to businesses."

— Working with officials in Washington, D.C., to "pass free-trade bills and open new markets to California goods."

Kashkari reported this week that he raised $1.3 million since announcing his bid for governor in January and has $900,000 cash on hand, while Republican state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks reported he has less than $11,000 remaining.

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