Following introductory remarks from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, State Senate Pro Tem Toni Adkins, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, California Governor Gavin Newsom took to the podium on Tuesday to deliver his fourth annual State of the State Address, where he preached the values of “The California Way” through a series of policy points.
The speech, presumably due to COVID protocols, was not held before a large crowd of state dignitaries in the State Assembly Chamber, but to a more limited albeit applauding crowd of elected leaders in a nearby venue. His remarks totaled just under 20 minutes.
The governor spoke first to democracy and California’s special place in holding up its most lauded principles, which included systems that allowed for inclusion of the rich diversity of the state’s Constitutional Officers. Said Newsom, “Our constitutional officers here tonight — they include the daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper, an immigrant from the Philippines, the daughters of parents born in China and Greece, one raised by a teacher from Panama, and the proud son of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Thank you for your service.” He continued, “California does democracy like nowhere else in the world. No other place offers opportunity to so many from so many different backgrounds.”
He also honored the People of Ukraine and their brave fight to save their own democracy, with some grateful perspective. He said, “Tonight, is also a moment for us to reflect on – not just overseas – what it means to live in a society where elected leaders still settle our disagreements by and large with civility and compromise. And how we derive strength from a government that reflects the people we represent.”
The Governor then spoke to the forces who would do harm to American democracy, stating, “We cannot take our democracy for granted. Authoritarian and illiberal impulses aren’t just rising overseas, they’ve been echoing here at home for some time. While we may not have strongmen literally waging war in our country, we are plagued by agents of a national anger machine fueling division, weaponizing grievance.” Newsom continued, “Powerful forces and loud voices – stoking fear and seeking to divide us, weakening the institutions of our democracy. Counting on complacency to erode voting rights, scapegoating vulnerable minorities. Conjuring conspiracies and promoting ‘otherness.’ [and] Actively exploiting the ‘anger of the anxious.’”
Newsome suggested protecting democracy and so many other major issues confronting policymakers and those they serve can be solved via, “a better way – a California Way – forward.”
To take on climate change, the governor stated that California has no peer. “For years, we’ve set the rules and others have followed,” he said. And while he promised to address rising gas prices through a rebate to most Californians, he warned, “But at a time when we’ve been heating and burning up, one thing we cannot do is repeat the mistakes of the past by embracing polluters. Drilling even more oil which only leads to even more extreme weather, more extreme drought, and more wildfire.”
Turning to green and renewable energy, Newsom declared that, “Clean energy is this generation’s greatest economic opportunity,” describing California’s leadership on renewables as, “Not just a national security and an environmental justice imperative,” but as an state who’s policies have literally created renewable energy markets like electric vehicles. The governor believes California’s next great leadership opportunity is in development of the supply chain for energy-storing battery technology through the state’s rich lithium reserves.
Governor Newsom was no more modest when it came to California’s economic accomplishments, and targeted rivals in saying, “We dominate in research, innovation, entrepreneurialism, venture capital — and remain the world’s fifth largest economy. Our GDP growth has consistently outpaced not only the rest of the nation – but most other, large western democracies. In December alone, 25 percent of America’s jobs were created right here in California…More new business starts during the worst of the pandemic than Texas and Florida combined.”
For workers and working families, Newsom pointed to raises in the minimum wage, increases in paid sick leave and family leave, and expansions in child care services as several of examples of what differentiates California from other states.
And Newsom wasn’t going to be outdone by any Republican governor on tax cuts, reminding viewers, “Just consider what we did last year for the middle class in California, sending 12 billion dollars back — the largest state tax rebate in American history.”
Newsom made no apologies to faux scientists and critics when it came to the State’s COVID response, claiming, “No state took bolder steps to protect public health and human life over the last two years. Our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives. Our mask mandates saved lives. Your choices saved lives.” He then took aim at a few familiar targets, stating, “California’s experienced far lower COVID death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio. Fewer than Florida — 35 percent fewer, to be exact.”
He then spoke of the “SMARTER Plan,” something he described as, “The nation’s first blueprint to stay a step ahead of future variants and seasonal surges.”
The SMARTER plan will, in part, monitor community wastewater systems for COVID spikes and distribute resources included vaccine doses, masks, and medical staff to communities experiencing spikes. It will also:
• Ramp up the state’s capacity to enable 200,000 daily COVID vaccine doses
• Stockpile 75 million masks
• Build a capacity to provide 500,000 COVID tests daily
• Increasing by 25 percent the number of vaccination sites in schools
The governor acknowledged the bewildering state of the unhoused, but tried to put some perspective of the homeless crisis. “Just a few years ago, California lacked any comprehensive strategy. No accountability and no meaningful state resources to solve the problem. But that’s all changed,” he said. “In just the past three years, we not only have a comprehensive plan, we’re also requiring new accountability and providing unprecedented investments for cities and counties on the front lines.”
He acknowledged the problem is ongoing and that we have a ways to go, saying, “And while we moved a record 58,000 people off the streets – 58,000 since the beginning of the pandemic – we recognize, we all recognize, we have more to do – particularly to address what’s happening on our sidewalks, reaching people who need the help the most.”