Friday :: May 13, 2022

Gavin Newsom's Lack of Vision

by Steve

You would think that a governor who is assured re-election, has future political ambitions, and has an unheard-of surplus to deploy would expend some of his political capital on swinging for the fences and showing some imagination in attacking the state of California’s problems, something that Gavin Newsom’s predecessors never did.

But you would be wrong. At this hour, Governor Newsom is issuing his May Revision to his 2022-2023 budget proposal amidst a projected discretionary surplus of $49.2 billion, and no shortage of opportunities to deal with the state’s problems. With the state reeling from chronic problems ranging from homelessness, a broken mental health system, drought, annual firestorms, rising crime, and a tax system that needs reform, Newsom proposed the following noteworthy solutions this morning:

None. Zero. Nada.

On the drought:

Given the intensification of drought conditions since January, the May Revision allocates an additional $1.6 billion, including the $250 million set aside as a contingency in the Governor's Budget, to continue the state's drought response. These funds are allocated to immediate drought support, including efforts to encourage conservation. The May Revision also allocates funding to further long-term water resilience, including funding to augment loans to drinking water systems, increase water recycling, increase conservation within the agricultural sector, and expand habitat restoration. In addition, the May Revision also includes $75 million to support grants of up to $50,000 to farming and related businesses negatively impacted by the drought.

California sits astride the largest source of water in the world. Has Newsom, or Jerry Brown before him done anything to increase water supply, instead of focusing on conservation and shipping existing supplies more easily to Southern California? No. It apparently was beyond the imagination of Newsom and his team to use several billion dollars and the state’s bonding authority to work with water districts, cities and counties, and environmental/coastal advocates on a Manhattan Project towards the construction of desalination plants along the California coast to pump new fresh water supplies into Shasta Lake, Lake Oroville, and the Central Valley Project to keep them full year-round and replenish Central Valley aquifers.

On homelessness:

Last year, the state allocated a $12 billion multi-year investment for local governments to build housing and provide critical supports and homelessness services. The Governor's Budget proposed an additional $2 billion General Fund over two years to continue the state’s efforts to address homelessness by investing in behavioral health housing and encampment cleanup grants. These investments are intended to serve as a bridge to other related efforts such as Homekey and California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), which will redesign Medi-Cal to better serve Californians, including individuals experiencing homelessness, and provide long-term care. The May Revision includes an additional $150 million to fund more Homekey projects and $500 million for the development of interim housing designed to be built quickly, providing an additional type of housing to address homelessness.

$49.2B, and only $500M for interim housing. It appears $1-2B and a coordinated effort between the state and counties to move the homeless off the streets within the constraints of the Boise decision was beyond the creative abilities of Newsom and his team.

On fixing the state mental health system:

Nothing. Nearly $50B and nothing. It was apparently beyond the imagination of Newsom and his team to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse the damage Ronald Reagan did to the state mental health system and rebuild the state-operated infrastructure, thereby helping cities and counties move this population off the streets and into treatment.

Leave it to California Senate Republicans to have more vision and wallet than Newsom.

Tax Reform:

With the state's coffers full, and political capital to burn, did Newsom circle back to his initial campaign promise to tackle the state's tax system, and box in the California GOP? Nope.


This is one area where Newsom is actually doing something:

The May Revision proposes $150.2 million ($141.7 million General Fund) and 465 positions to enhance CAL FIRE’s capabilities to meet the demands of wildland firefighting in a changing climate.

I could go on and on about missed opportunities on crime and elsewhere, but the simple truth is that Gavin Newsom is squandering an opportunity to actually solve California's problems, and show that he is ready for the bigger leagues. No other governor will be gifted with a nearly $50B surplus, and certainly no other governor will have as little to show for that opportunity.

Steve :: 10:52 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!