Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor brings per­sonal touch, fresh fo­cus

The Tribune (SLO) - - News - BY KATH­LEEN RONAYNE

Gov. Gavin New­som held his toddler son dur­ing his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, spent nearly two hours dis­cussing his state bud­get with re­porters and en­gaged in two Twit­ter spats with the pres­i­dent.

New­som, 51, took of­fice Mon­day and quickly dove into gov­ern­ing the na­tion’s most pop­u­lous state, but with a dif­fer­ent fo­cus and touch than his 80-year-old pre­de­ces­sor, fel­low Demo­crat Jerry Brown.

New­som, a fa­ther of four, placed ex­pand­ing early ed­u­ca­tion and paid leave at the cen­ter of a fam­ily-friendly plat­form he out­lined in his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, which de­liv­ered a sig­na­ture im­age when New­som’s 2-yearold son, Dutch, wan­dered on stage. New­som didn’t miss a beat, pick­ing up his son and con­tin­u­ing to talk as he cra­dled him.

Three days later, when he an­nounced his bud­get plan, New­som seemed to en­joy his lengthy dia­logue with the me­dia and showed a deep grasp of the facts and fig­ures.

“Wait ‘til next year, you’ll have to sit here for four hours,” he told re­porters at the bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion. “I love this stuff.”

Brown usu­ally pre­ferred to keep the me­dia at arm’s length. When his bud­get plans were an­nounced, he would make a short pre­sen­ta­tion and take a few ques­tions but let his finance di­rec­tor delve into de­tails.

New­som “has a style that’s much more in­ter­ac­tive,” said Kim Nalder, a pro­fes­sor of gov­ern­ment at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity-Sacra­mento. New­som’s on-stage mo­ment with his son, she said, “sort of broke the mold for what we think the grav­i­tas of the of­fice re­quires.”

New­som, like Brown, so far isn’t re­leas­ing a daily sched­ule of his where- abouts. On Fri­day, he made an unan­nounced trip to a Cen­tral Val­ley com­mu­nity to dis­cuss clean drink­ing water with res­i­dents. His bud­get pro­poses a new tax to help clean up con­tam­i­nated water.

Af­ter eight years as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor, New­som won the gov­er­nor­ship in a land­slide over Repub­li­can John Cox. In his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, he said he would work to gain the trust and sup­port of ru­ral Cal­i­for­ni­ans, mil­lions of whom didn’t vote for him.

New­som’s first pub­lic ap­pear­ance af­ter the in­au­gu­ra­tion was in Placer County, which he lost in Novem­ber. He wore jeans and sneak­ers as he dis­cussed wildfire safety and stressed his per­sonal con­nec­tion to the Sierra Ne­vada foothills county where his fa­ther had lived.

Brown was a harsh critic of Trump but picked his bat­tles. New­som overtly blasted the White House’s “cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence” in his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress and in his first week hit back twice, on Twit­ter, at Trump’s threats to with­hold emer­gency money for fire vic­tims and flood projects.

“The Pres­i­dent of the United States is try­ing to take funds away from Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties dev­as­tated by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters to pay for an im­moral wall that Amer­ica doesn’t need or want,” New­som tweeted Fri­day.

New­som show­cased his pol­icy chops when he dis­cussed de­tails of his bud­get plan, which pledges to pay down Cal­i­for­nia’s debts while in­vest­ing in hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. Whether his pro­jec­tion for a gigantic $21.5 bil­lion sur­plus comes to bear and al­lows him to do it will be­come clear in com­ing months.

While Brown often warned the Leg­is­la­ture was too quick to spend money or pass new laws, New­som has ea­gerly en­gaged law­mak­ers.

“This bud­get, I think, re­flects a lot of their pri­or­i­ties in ad­vance in ways that, with re­spect, the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s bud­get didn’t,” New­som said, be­fore adding: “I love this Leg­is­la­ture.”

That sen­ti­ment could change as the leg­isla­tive ses­sion goes on. As­sem­bly­man Phil Ting, the chair of the bud­get com­mit­tee, said he ap­pre­ci­ates New­som’s will­ing­ness to tackle big is­sues. But law­mak­ers still plan to give the bud­get a crit­i­cal eye.

“We’ll be dis­sect­ing ev­ery piece of that bud­get,” he said. “The devil’s all in the de­tails and we’ll fig­ure out whether we agree with what he put in.”

New­som fre­quently stressed his re­spect for his pre­de­ces­sor and that he un­der­stands the need to guard the state against an eco­nomic down­turn, but he teased he’ll make ma­jor changes to some of Brown’s top pri­or­i­ties.

“I pledge more trans­parency, more ac­count­abil­ity,” New­som said of the trou­bled high-speed rail pro­ject Brown cham­pi­oned. “I’m go­ing to be more hon­est about what is it, what it isn’t.”

ERIC RISBERG AP

Gov. Gavin New­som holds his son Dutch while giv­ing his ad­dress at his in­au­gu­ra­tion in Sacra­mento on Mon­day.

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