In his first State of the State speech Tuesday, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he will significantly refashion former Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet projects, including the mismanaged High Speed Rail project, and the Delta Tunnels project will be downsized to one tunnel. Newsom also promised he will have a comprehensive strategy on the PG&E bankruptcy within 60 days, work to increase per pupil funding in California’s public school system, pave the way for a government-run takeover of health care, sign a rent control package of bills this year, expand Medi-Cal coverage up to age of 26 regardless of immigration status, provide a cost of living refund with an earned income tax credit to more than 1 million Californians, and poke President Donald Trump in the eye over the California/Mexico border crisis.
If these promises sound more expensive than the state’s already larger-then-ever $209 billion budget, they are.
Government-run, Single-Payer Healthcare System
Creating a single-payer, government-run healthcare system is a massive undertaking, and requires federal government approval. Medi-Cal — California’s version of Medicaid, the health insurance program for Americans receiving welfare — covers about a third of the state’s population. Employer health plans cover nearly 43 percent of Californians.
A 2017 Senate Health Committee analysis of SB 562 by then-Sen. Ricardo Lara, the state’s new Insurance Commissioner, calculated the total annual costs to create a universal, single-payer health care system in California at $400 billion per year, including all covered health care services and administrative costs, at full enrollment.
“The White House is laser-focused on destroying the Affordable Care Act,” Newsom said. “The vandalism they’ve already done to the individual mandate has had consequences. This year’s Covered California premiums increased almost twice as much as we expected. This is just what we feared, and it’s just what they wanted. That’s why, when it comes to the individual mandate, California must act where Washington failed.”
California’s High Speed Rail Scheme
California’s High Speed Rail scheme no longer resembles the Proposition 1A bond initiative sold to voters back in 2008, or the promise of true high speed rail service from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Sacramento. “But let’s be real,” Newsom said. “The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.” Newsom said while there isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, or from San Francisco to LA, “we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.”
The last High Speed Rail planning options did not include a Merced to Bakersfield route, but did have a Fresno to Bakersfield option at a cost of approximately $2.55 billion. “We’ll connect the revitalized Central Valley to other parts of the state, and continue to push for more federal funding and private dollars,”” Newsom said. “But let’s just get something done.”
“For those who want to walk away from this whole endeavor, I offer you this: Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it,” he added. “And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”
Per-Pupil Spending, California Public Schools
On public education, Newsom said his administration will invest more than $80 billion n our schools, which includes $576 million for special education. “We’re still 41st in the nation in per pupil funding,” Newsom said. “Something needs to change. We need to have an honest conversation about how we fund our schools at a state and local level.” However, according to Lance Izumi, Director of Education at the Pacific Research Institute, the problem is more with former Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control funding Formula spending scheme. “According to Ed Voice, CalFacts.org, the per pupil spending is actually over $17,000 per student,” Izumi said. “CalFacts.org source is the Legislative Analyst’s Office. And according to CalFacts.org, California would rank 29th, not 41st,” Izumi said.
Izumi added: “With the LCFF, the money goes down to the school districts but there is no accountability – if the money is going to old failing programs or to new programs. And secondly, most oof the money big districts spend is going to pensions and benefits for employees. For LAUSD, the Reason Foundation 2018 Evaluation of LAUSD’s Fiscal Outlook, they calculated that 57 percent of the LCFF is just going to three items – pensions, retiree health benefits, and special education, before one dollar is spent in the classroom.
California’s Homeless Epidemic
California’s homelessness epidemic is growing. Newsom acknowledged the outbreaks of Hepatitis-A in San Diego, an outbreak of Syphilis in Sonoma, and the most recent typhus outbreak in Los Angeles. “Typhus. That’s a Medieval disease. In California. In 2019,” he said. Newsom’s solution to this explosion of mentally ill, drug addicted street people is to create a new Commission on Homelessness & Supportive Housing, led by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who recently apologized to the homeless about police rousting them from their tents outside city hall during the strong storms in January. It is a violation of city code to camp on city property.
“I want to apologize, that should not have happened, people should not have been asked to leave at 2:30 in the morning in a rainstorm, period,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at a city council meeting.
Just Say NO to the Water Fix and Twin Tunnels
In another break from Jerry Brown’s projects, Newsom announced he will downsize the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta twin tunnels project to one tunnel. “I do not support the Water Fix as currently configured. Meaning, I do not support the twin tunnels,” Newsom said, as he shared his interest to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. “We need a portfolio approach to building water infrastructure and meeting long-term demand.”
A New Master Plan on Aging
Newsom announced he is launching a new Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, and named former first lady, Maria Shriver to head it up. “It’s time for a new master plan on aging.”
City’s obligations on Affordable Housing
Newsom said he committed “$750 million for a major new incentive package for communities to do the right thing. $250 million in support to cities and counties to update their housing plans, revamp their zoning process, and get more housing entitled. $500 million more in grants when they achieve these milestones.”
He brought up his lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach for failing to meet its obligations on affordable housing, and acknowledged “there are 47 other cities across California that are not complying with their planning requirements in one way or another.”
He also called out how the Legislature has expedited judicial review on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for wealthy professional sports teams owners – the most recent exemption was done by then-Senator Darrell Steinberg for Sacramento’s Golden 1 Arena, home of the Sacramento Kings. “It’s time we do the same thing for housing,” Newsom said. Then he said that home builders and labor leaders are working together to forge a compromise to accelerate production. “If we want a California for All, we have to build housing for all.”
Prescription Drug Costs
Newsom thanked President Trump for calling attention to prescription drug prices in his State of the Union. “Yes, you heard that right. I hope he follows through,” Newsom said. “After all, this should be a bipartisan issue. But with or without the Federal government, California will lead.”
Rent Stability = Rent Control
Newsom said after Proposition 10, the rent control initiative failed in the last election, “the pressures on vulnerable renters didn’t go away. We need new rules to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent evictions, without putting small landlords out of business. I want the best ideas from everyone in this chamber. Here is my promise to you, get me a good package on rent stability this year and I will sign it.”
The ‘Manufactured Border Crisis’
Newsom again brought up what he referred to in his press conference Monday as “fear mongering coming out of WH about this so-called border security.” In talking about President Trump, Newsom said, “He described a country where inequality doesn’t seem to be a problem, where climate change doesn’t exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families seeking asylum. Just last night, he went down to El Paso and said it again.” Newsom continued, but his facts are disputable:
Let us state the facts. We are currently experiencing the lowest number of border crossings since 1971.
In California, like our nation, our undocumented population is at its lowest level in more than a decade.
Some 550,000 fewer in our state alone.
Immigrants, both those here legally and those without documentation, commit crime at a lower rate than native-born citizens.
And those families, women and children, seeking asylum at our borders, are doing so lawfully.
Those are the facts. The border “emergency” is a manufactured crisis and California will not be part of this political theater.
“No more division, no more xenophobia and no more nativism. We suffered enough from that in the nineties with Props 187 and 227.”
The Center for Immigration Studies says there is enough data from various federal, state and local agencies to piece together a picture of crimes committed by non-citizens,” Diane Dimond recently reported. After studying that data, the Center concluded that, yes, non-citzens are more likely to commit federal crimes than citizens, crimes that have nothing to do with immigration issues. No one is keeping a tally as to whether these criminal immigrants are here legally or illegally, but the Center says that group accounts for a disproportionate share of those sentenced for crimes like kidnapping, drug offenses, money laundering, embezzlement, fraud, auto theft, assault, homicide and gun related offenses.”
“Then there is the FBI, which tracks the nation’s murders, reporting that from 2003 through 2009 (last available figures) criminal aliens committed more than 25,000 homicides. The General Accounting Office agreed.”
Expanding California Government
“Much talk was made of new commissions being formed, new boards being formed, new task forces being formed,”said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) following the Governor’s State of the State address. “Translation: more government being formed. California is number one in poverty in the country. We don’t need a new committee or commission to show that California has become too expensive for too many. We need to undo the policies that are the cause of it.”
A live stream of the speech can be found here.