California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an early entrant in the 2018 governor’s race, says the state needs to be more welcoming to business and needs to tackle mounting governing debt–priorities not always voiced by fellow Democrats.

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“I’ve been very critical, frankly, of some members of my party, I think the language of our party is a little bit anti-business. You can’t be pro-job and anti-business,” Newsom said in a wide-ranging interview on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program.

“My passion is jobs and the economy,” said Newsom, describing himself as an entrepreneur and businessman whose restaurants, hotels and other enterprises employ close to 1,000 Californians.

“Same time,” Newsom said, “businesses can’t thrive in a world that’s failing, and so I think the business community needs to recognize that it’s about growth and inclusion.”

Newsom also said he strongly supports the state’s world-leading regulations, widely criticized by business groups as job killers, to combat climate change: “I’m passionate about radically changing the way we produce and consume energy.”

Newsom said he thinks the state’s anti-pollution efforts will create “many more” jobs than will be lost. “I want to lean into the future,” he said.

Refuting reports that he opposes the state’s controversial bullet train, a pet project of Gov. Jerry Brown, Newsom said he is only concerned about the escalating price tag (now estimated at $64 billion), falling ridership projections and where the money will come from to pay for it:

“I’ve been asking tough questions and apparently when you ask tough questions publicly you’re considered an opponent … but I’m not an opponent, I’m just legitimately concerned that we can deliver on the promise that we have been promoting.”.

Newsom said the ever-increasing costs of employee benefits and pensions, along with corrections costs, are “devouring” the state budget. (The state’s unfunded, employee-related liabilities were recently estimated at about $90 billion.)

Newsom said he has sometimes tangled with union leaders over the issue but said the only way to achieve reform is with labor’s cooperation, which he said he achieved in two rounds of reforms while mayor of San Francisco:

“We did it with, not to, labor. We did it across the bargaining table. It’s a different approach.”

Newsom’s “Inside OC” appearance was part of a Southern California swing to stump for November ballot measures that would tighten gun controls (Prop 63) and legalize recreational use of marijuana (Prop 64.)

Newsom dismissed “as knee-jerk” arguments from some in law enforcement that Prop 63, which among other things requires background checks for ammo purchases, would divert crime-fighting resources.

“I’m sick and tired of the gun lobby dominating our political discourse,” Newsom said. “I think the public has had it, they’re overwhelmingly supportive of these gun safety measures.”

Newsom said Prop 64 is a “social justice issue, it’s a criminal justice reform issue .. I’m not pro-marijuana, I’m not pro-cannibas, I’m anti-prohibition.”

Newsom is one of several prominent Democrats either running or pondering a run to for governor; others include state Treasurer John Chiang, billionaire investor Tom Steyer, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Newsom said he welcomes the competition: “There are going to be a lot of folks running and that’s a good thing. Folks want choice.”

He chuckled at a rumor that actor George Clooney may also run.

“I know George, he ain’t running,” Newsom said.

The interview with Newsom, which has aired on PBS SoCal, Cox 3 and KDOC, can be seen here.

This week’s edition of “Inside OC” (beginning Oct. 4) will feature Newsom on a panel discussing the impact that Prop 64, which is leading in the polls, would have on the marijuana industry. And more discussion with Newsom will air at a later date.

All “Inside OC” show times are listed at www.rickreiff.com. The shows and post-show “Open Mic” segments are also on YouTube.

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