Election 2014: Donnelly and Kashkari talk Hollywood tax credits, TARP and what it means to be for liberty

The Bee’s editorial board met recently with the top two Republican challengers to Gov. Jerry Brown’s re-election campaign, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks and Neel Kashkari of Orange County. Discussion ranged from Donnelly’s unusual flag pin to Kashkari’s choice for president while running the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008. Below are excerpts from the conversations.

Tim Donnelly

State assemblyman

One of the economic issues that you’re going to vote on is the Hollywood film tax credit. What do you think of that?

I’ve run my own Hollywood film tax credit bill. It hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as the other one. But mine is actually modeled on Georgia, and it’s extremely aggressive because we have lost an industry…. I think we should lift the cap because what would we have to lose? If we show we’re serious and we bring back the work, we will net the tax revenues.

You talk about more certainty for employers. Does that relate to immigration reform?

We need a major overhaul of our immigration policy in this state. Not hand over amnesty to everyone who wants to come to our state illegally, but I think we should do an overhaul. Let’s get the government out of the way of everyone who wants to come here and become an American, especially if they want to come here and start a business. What’s wrong with that? … I have always favored a guest worker plan with certain limitations.

How do you distinguish yourself from Neel Kashkari?

Republicans, when they hear he voted for Obama, don’t want to vote for him – including moderates … I think the clear distinction is he believes that big government can work. I believe big government is the biggest threat to our future.

Your American flag pin is of the colonies. Why do you wear that?

Because it represents the banner of the first revolution, which was for liberty. And right now I believe that government control is the greatest threat to our future. It’s the greatest threat to the right to pursue happiness.

I believe in freedom, and I believe in liberty. I also believe that there is a role for a certain amount of regulation within in a society and that society has to have that discussion. I don’t think I have the answer to everything.

Neel Kashkari

Former U.S. Treasury official/investment banker

You voted for Obama in ’08. Why did you do that?

I paid very close attention to what both candidates were saying. When you’re in the middle of an issue as complicated as this (financial crisis) and you see somebody speaking with great nuance, and one person really understands this – what’s at stake is the American economy collapsing into the Great Depression. I cast my vote on that one issue, who I thought was better equipped to handle that acute economic crisis. I stand by that.

At some point you changed?

I did. I changed. I also believed then-Sen. Barack Obama when he said he was going to work to heal the partisan divide. ... I have since seen that President Obama is a partisan warrior not genuinely in interested in working across party lines. Every prior president in my lifetime, or since I’ve been old enough to pay attention to politics, has been more effective at reaching across the aisle than President Obama.

There is a bill to increase the film tax credit. What do you think of that?

I don’t like the idea of Hollywood leaving California. But I know that other states are subsidizing movies now up to 30 percent the cost of a movie, which is silly economic policy. That’s why my plan is more agnostic. My plan says if a factory picks up and moves to California, it pays no state taxes for 10 years on the revenue from that factory. The idea being this costs California taxpayers virtually nothing because that is not revenue we would have otherwise received.

And generally factories stick around for a while. Movie production? Six months.

Where do you stand on immigration reform?

We need to reform our laws so we’re prioritizing the workers that our economy needs. You travel around the Central Valley, all I hear is water and workers. They need labor to work the farms, and you go through the Silicon Valley and they need more engineers and scientists. ... No. 2, of course, we need to enforce the law – enforce the law at the border, and enforce the law in our businesses, too.

For 12 million here who are undocumented, what I say to everybody, what I say to conservative Republicans, I say, even if you want to deport them, they’re not going anywhere. It’s never going to happen. So stop talking about it. I want everyone who’s here paying their fair share – paying their taxes, contributing to our society. That means they need to have some form of legal status so they feel comfortable to do that. And we can recognize the contribution they are making to society. So whether that’s a path to citizenship or a path to a green card we can debate that... .

But there needs to be a path somewhere, so let’s get on it.