New­som’s first bud­get boosts spend­ing on schools, health

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By John My­ers

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som un­veiled a $209 bil­lion bud­get pro­posal Thurs­day that re­lies on a record-set­ting wind­fall of tax rev­enues to boost pub­lic schools and health care pro­grams while adding sig­nif­i­cant one-time spend­ing to ad­dress the state’s home­less­ness epi­demic and pre­pare for fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

New­som pre­sented his plan in a free­wheel­ing event more akin to a po­lit­i­cal rally or TED talk than a for­mal bud­get in­tro­duc­tion, us­ing a slide pre­sen­ta­tion at the nearly two-hour event to make cri­tiques and ob­ser­va­tions. The gov­er­nor in­vited not only jour­nal­ists but statewide elected of­fi­cials, as well as lead­ers of pow­er­ful la­bor unions that sup­ported his can­di­dacy. Guests ap­plauded as he vowed to ex­pand ser­vices to help Cal­i­for­nia’s need­i­est.

“I know it’s rote and cliche to say it’s a re­flec­tion of our val­ues, but it is a re­flec­tion of our val­ues,” New­som said of his bud­get. “It is demon­stra­ble that these dol­lars at­tach to real peo­ple and real peo­ple’s lives.”

Key to the gov­er­nor’s fis­cal blue­print is its pro­jec­tion of $21.6 bil­lion in un­ex­pected rev­enue — money with no strings at­tached on its use. The es­ti­mate is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than even the most op­ti­mistic pro­jec­tions made just two months ago, and it’s on top of $15.3 bil­lion ex­pected for the of­fi­cial “rainy day” re­serve fund set aside for the direst of eco­nomic cir­cum­stances.

New­som in­sisted that his plan, which uses $18.5 bil­lion of the un­re­stricted wind­fall for one-time ex­penses, is even more pru­dent in some re­spects than those crafted by his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Gov. Jerry Brown.

“We are ar­gu­ing for even more dis­ci­pline on our one-time in­vest­ments,” New­som said. “The mes­sage we are ad­vanc­ing here is dis­ci­pline. Build­ing a strong foun­da­tion on which ev­ery­thing else can be built.”

The bud­get of­fers ad­di­tional money for nu­mer­ous pro­grams, many of which are used pri­mar­ily by low-in­come res­i­dents, par­tic­u­larly those with chil­dren. New­som pro­posed a $1 bil­lion “work­ing fam­i­lies tax credit,” more than dou­ble the size of the state’s ex­ist­ing tax break for low-in­come work­ers. The bud­get would no­tably ex­pand el­i­gi­bil­ity for the tax break to those who earn up to $15 an hour, es­ti­mated by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to add up to 400,000 ad­di­tional fam­i­lies.

The gov­er­nor will also ask law­mak­ers to in­crease monthly wel­fare as­sis­tance grants un­der the state’s Cal­Works pro­gram, build­ing on an ef­fort led by law­mak­ers over the last two years.

Ef­forts to help ease Cal­i­for­nia’s hous­ing and home­less­ness crises would be bol­stered un­der the spend­ing plan too, with $500 mil­lion to be set aside to help lo­cal gov­ern­ments build shel­ters and add ser­vices to help the home­less.

Some of the money would be ear­marked for the state’s 11 largest cities, while other funds would be used to re­ward com­mu­ni­ties that are the most suc­cess­ful at cre­at­ing hous­ing op­tions. New­som also called for an ex­pe­dited en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view of con­struc­tion projects to al­le­vi­ate home­less­ness.

He said if the state can use those same tools to “ex­pe­dite (sports) sta­dium projects, and we do all the time, we sure as hell should be able to do that for 138,000 damn souls that are out on streets and side­walks.”

New­som pledged to es­ca­late the state gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the lack of af­ford­able hous­ing, ask­ing law­mak­ers to al­lo­cate $1.3 bil­lion to­ward a new ef­fort to build more homes and apart­ment units — and say­ing that fewer state trans­porta­tion dol­lars could go to com­mu­ni­ties that fail to take ac­tion on hous­ing.

“I’m in the spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­op­er­a­tion,” the gov­er­nor said. “But I’m also in the spirit of see­ing things hap­pen.”

State Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Pa­tri­cia Bates, R-La­guna Niguel, said any re­fusal to fund trans­porta­tion projects would fly in the face of prom­ises made to vot­ers last fall who left in place higher fuel taxes and ve­hi­cle fees.

“With­hold­ing funds for road re­pairs would be a mis­take and a bait-and-switch on the com­mit­ments made,” Bates said.

A num­ber of pro­pos­als re­flect rel­a­tively small tar­geted in­fu­sions of cash. The New­som ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieves those ini­tia­tives will pro­vide a foun­da­tion for new or ex­panded ser­vices, many of which would need to be funded over the course of sev­eral years.

Some of the phased-in ef­forts were out­lined in the days lead­ing up to New­som’s in­au­gu­ra­tion Mon­day. The gov­er­nor will ask law­mak­ers to spend $1.8 bil­lion, mostly in one-time ex­penses, to im­prove early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and en­cour­age more schools to pro­vide full-day kinder­garten. He will also ask for early steps to­ward a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion of Cal­i­for­nia’s paid fam­ily leave for new par­ents. And New­som has em­braced calls for a sec­ond year of tu­ition-free com­mu­nity col­lege for any stu­dent who wants it, a $40 mil­lion pro­posal that builds on ex­ist­ing law that cov­ers costs for the first year.

“We are ex­cited,” said Eric Heins, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. “He said what his com­mit­ments were on the cam­paign, and now he’s fol­low­ing through on those.”

The bud­get also makes good on a prom­ise New­som made hours after tak­ing the oath of of­fice: full ac­cess to Medi-Cal, the state’s low-in­come health care pro­gram, for any­one up to age 26 who is in the U.S. il­le­gally. Those who are 19 or younger are al­ready cov­ered.

JAY L. CLEN­DENIN/LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Gavin New­som, rec­og­nizes his wife, Jen­nifer Siebel New­som, dur­ing his speech at a vic­tory party in San Fran­cisco on June 5, 2018.

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