BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian government editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, flanked by supportive local farmers, blasted the record of incumbent Barbara Boxer on water and jobs and urged her to support the extension of tax cuts during a news conference at Grimmway Farms in Arvin Friday.
Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, argued tax cuts during the George W. Bush administration ought to be made permanent, saying failure to do so would cost families an average $1,600 more a year and prevent businesses from expanding and creating jobs.
She said without action, the estate tax -- which Fiorina called the "death tax" -- would go from zero to 55 percent Jan. 1, disproportionately hurting farming families because most of their assets are tied up in things like land, livestock and crops -- not cash.
Fiorina also said Boxer has "refused to lift a finger to protect an adequate and reliable water supply" for valley ag, choosing to protect fish over people who grow plentiful and safe food.
"The only thing she knows how to do is increase taxes on hard-working families, increase regulation and increase the size and scope of the federal government," Fiorina said.
In response to all the criticism, Boxer's campaign said Boxer supports going back to the 2009 tax rate, which is lower than the rate it will automatically reset to in 2011 if nothing happens. At that level, it said, the estate tax kicks in at $3.5 million.
"Barbara Boxer supports eliminating the estate tax for 99.7 percent of Americans and extending the Bush tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans," said Rose Kapolczynski, her campaign manager. "Carly Fiorina is looking out for the wealthiest Americans like herself."
The Boxer campaign provided a long list of efforts the senator's made to ensure water supplies, including:
* Leading efforts to pass the 2007 Water Resources Development Act (including successfully overriding a presidential veto), which authorized $23 billion nationwide for water supply, flood control, navigation and habitat restoration projects -- including more than $1.3 billion for California water projects.
* Introducing a bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein to make water transfers permanent, which could help deliver more than 250,000 acre feet of water to communities suffering from water shortages.
* Working with the Interior Department, Feinstein and other members of the California congressional delegation to find ways to increase water allocations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley up to at least 45 percent of their contract total.
"Senator Boxer has been working on solutions that meet the needs of our farmers, our fishermen and our urban and suburban families," Kapolczynski said. "The Boxer-Feinstein bill to facilitate water transfers passed earlier this year and Senator Boxer also successfully worked to get updated water allocations announced early this year so farmers could make planting decisions."
Supporting Fiorina were Starrh and Starrh Farms Owner Fred Starrh; Grimmway Farms Vice President of Corporate and Government Affairs Sean McNally; former Western Growers Association Chairman Kevin Andrew of Sun World; and Agriculture Leaders for Carly Co-Chair and California Cattlemen's Association First Vice President Kevin Kester.
"It's time the state turned around to be a leader of industry and jobs rather than a negative force," said Starrh, who complained about receiving less than half the state water allocation he's been paying for. He blamed environmental policies protecting the delta smelt.
Kester said that if estate taxes were to expire, his children would one day have to sell off property that's been in the family for generations to pay the taxes.