The State of the State Address was Governor Newsom’s opportunity to provide Californians with clear, concise answers on the status of the high-speed rail project, the impact of AB 5 on independent California workers, the escalating homelessness crisis, the decline in home construction, and what he plans to do about the impending threat of drought our state faces once again.
Governor Newsom declared homelessness a national crisis, yet the number of homeless continues to decline in the rest of the country while California’s continues to increase. The latest figures peg California’s homeless population at more than 150,000, an increase of more than 16 percent from the prior year.
Last year the governor secured $1.2 billion to address homelessness. This year he proposes to spend another $1.1 billion from the General Fund.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently wrote that Gov. Newsom’s homeless plan “[fell] short of articulating a clear strategy for curbing homelessness in California.”
What Governor Newsom presented today was another expensive vision, but, before he proposes more, where did last year’s $1.2 billion go, and when can Californians expect to see results? The Governor used the terms “accountability” and “transparency.” We applaud that – Republicans have been calling for accountability and transparency for years, so we’re glad to welcome the Governor to the party. We hope he actually means what he says, because accountability has been lacking in Sacramento for years.
We also agree that mental health laws need reform, and, in fact, Senate Republicans have supported improvements to Laura’s Law and the Mental Health Services Act in recent years. In addition, a 2019 Senate Republican bill (SB 640, Moorlach) proposed reforms similar to those the Governor described, but legislative Democrats blocked the bill from passing just last month. We hope Governor Newsom can persuade his fellow Democrats to be more open-minded to needed reforms, and we look forward to seeing more detail on his proposals.
We were somewhat dismayed, however, to hear the Governor applaud a homelessness program he started in San Francisco. While some individuals may have been helped, the ongoing homelessness crisis in San Francisco today strongly suggests that whatever they’ve done has been mostly a failure.
We would also be very curious to know why the Governor thinks homelessness has decreased in the rest of the country while rising 16 percent in California.
Housing Construction Dip
A year ago, Gov. Newsom told us he would implement a “Marshall Plan for affordable housing,” avowing to create 3.5 million more housing units by 2025, an average of 500,000 units per year.
A year later and housing construction has actually decreased – for the first time in over ten years.
Californians expected to hear from the governor a plan to make it easier to build. A plan to make building a less expensive, lengthy and litigious process. A plan to streamline and reform CEQA so it’s not just a cudgel deployed to delay or kill housing projects. A plan to lower permitting costs, and a plan to stop Democrats from piling on mandates that only increase the cost of building.
Rather than any specific plan, Californians got a bumper sticker: “It’s time for California to say yes to housing.”
With projected costs now more than doubling—from $34 billion in the 2008 plan to $80.3 billion in the just-released plan—there is a growing chorus of Democrats joining Republicans in pointing out that the new business plan will not deliver what was promised to California voters.
Californians needed to hear from Governor Newsom why he believes that continuing down this failed track is still the right thing to do.
Assembly Bill 5
Since AB 5 went into effect, rather than seeing increased flexibility and innovation for workers, we are seeing an increase in the outsourcing of California jobs to other states.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office report estimated that nearly a million current independent workers (part- or full-time) are at risk of losing their jobs as freelancers thanks to AB 5.
The governor’s answer to this Democrat-created jobs crisis—allocate $22 million for strict enforcement of this devastating new law.
Gov. Newsom completely ignored this critical issue affecting one million freelance workers. His speech could have included plans to repeal and replace AB 5 to preserve independent jobs in California and the livelihoods of entrepreneurial Californians. Where’s his vaunted big-hearted empathy for California’s one million independent freelance workers?
With the Sierra snowpack at 40% of normal, once again California is facing a dry winter without any meaningful snow or rain in sight.
Drought-like conditions devastate not only agricultural communities, but also increase the state’s wildfire risk.
Why was this important issue completely ignored? Also, where is the water storage Californians were promised after the last five-year drought?