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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Newsom blasts ‘poisonous populism’ in delayed State of State speech

Governor Gavin Newsom pointed to successes in his state, including a strong economy and the protection of reproductive rights.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom drew a stark contrast between his state and its detractors in his State of the State address Tuesday, pulling few punches in his full-throated praise of the Golden State.

Pointing to California’s humanitarian stance toward migrants, its protection of reproductive rights and its action on the homelessness crisis, Newsom said the state took action while Republicans and conservatives focused on diversion and distraction.

Newsom wasted no time in drawing battle lines, invoking the dawn of World War II in his opening remarks. He said — like in 1939, when the state faced “the destruction of democracy” — California now faces another extraordinary point in time.

“We are presented with a choice between a society that embraces our values and a world darkened by division and discrimination,” Newsom said in his prerecorded speech. “The economic prosperity, health, safety and freedom that we enjoy are under assault. Forces are threatening the very foundation of California's success — our pluralism, our innovative spirit, and our diversity.”

The annual speech was long delayed. Initially set for mid-March, the governor postponed it and had said he was considering not delivering any address this year. Then, over the weekend, Newsom announced he’d provide written comments to the Legislature and a prerecorded speech online — a move that drew criticism and accusations of disrespect from some Republican lawmakers.

The governor delivered criticisms of his own in his Tuesday address. Calling the “California dream” one built on opportunity, Newsom said the state’s values and way of life are an antidote to the right’s poisonous populism. He said the success of conservatives and California bashers depends on the Golden State’s failure.

“They want to roll back social progress, social justice, racial justice, economic justice, clean air, clean water, and basic fundamental fairness,” Newsom said. “They would cleave America from the principles of freedom and the rule of law.”

Newsom detailed several of the state’s recent successes, like the bill written by state Senator Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat, that gave Arizona doctors the ability to perform abortions for their patients in California.

The bill stemmed from Arizona’s Supreme Court's upholding of a Civil War-era ban on abortion. The Arizona Legislature has since passed a bill repealing the ban, though it will remain intact for another few months.

Pivoting to the U.S.-Mexico border, Newsom said Republicans have chosen cynicism and partisan politics instead of positive action. In contrast, he sent California National Guard troops to stop the flow of fentanyl into the state, which gave federal agents an opportunity to perform their main job of border security.

According to Newsom, the National Guard presence led to the seizure of over 62,000 pounds of fentanyl last year, and the discovery of 5.8 million pills with fentanyl across the state in the first four months of this year.

Simultaneously, the state has offered humanitarian assistance and temporary shelter to migrants in border areas, while congressional Republicans have instead chosen “inertia, politics, and pure political pandering.”

“When they speak of immigrants poisoning American blood, and of mass deportations and detention camps, and of ‘vermin’ who want to destroy America, this is the language of destruction — of 1939, when Governor (Culbert) Olson issued his warning,” Newsom said, referencing former President Donald Trump’s comments about poisoning blood.

California has created solutions to problems, not offered rhetoric and cast blame like its detractors, Newsom said. According to the governor, the state has cleared over 9,300 homeless encampments. It’s also moved tens of thousands of people from homelessness into shelter or housing. He credited the Homekey program, which has brought new life to former hotels and apartments and given shelter to over 71,000 people.

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Newsom praised the housing and supportive services the state has implemented for homeless people, noting that he’s signed 32 housing-related reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act. Critics of that act have long said it’s been abused to delay projects, which can lead developers to scuttle them entirely.

Part of the homelessness solution is the passage of Proposition 1 — a March ballot measure that passed by 50.2%. It will lead to a $6 billion bond issuance that will help restructure the state’s behavioral and mental health system.

Newsom questioned how the world would appear if California did nothing about the mental health crisis, which he said is how red states approach crime.

“They couldn’t be more divorced from reality,” Newsom said of the state’s detractors. “Their entire crime agenda narrative is about diversion and distraction. They create fear and division — meanwhile, people are gunned down at higher rates in Republican states than in Democratic states.”

Referencing what’s become a controversial package of crime bills, Newsom said California needs to clarify existing law. The state will increase its efforts to target professional theft rings, and he said he looks forward to advancing that bill package this year.

The once-bipartisan crime bill package drew Republican opposition weeks ago when Democrats announced they’d add urgency and inoperability clauses. Democrats want to augment existing law through the package, while Republicans favor the repeal of Proposition 47, which 10 years ago reduced the penalties for certain drug and property crimes.

The inoperability clauses, which would make the bills null and void if the Proposition 47 repeal passes in November, has Republicans saying Democrats are playing political games and will lead the state attorney general to rewrite the repeal’s title and description in an attempt to mislead voters.

The debate over the crime bills comes as lawmakers must pass a final fiscal year 2024-25 budget. Newsom pointed to that budget in his speech, saying it fills deficits for both the coming fiscal year and the next.

“In California, you don’t have to be profligate to be progressive,” Newsom said. “We understand how to balance budgets while protecting working families, children, and the most vulnerable people in this state.”

Newsom also touted the state’s job creation, expanded access to after-school and summer programs and its businesses. California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and it bolsters its economy while protecting the environment.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire praised the governor's address.

“The governor’s hard at work on the top issues facing the state and we’re grateful for his partnership," McGuire said in a statement. "He’s focused on delivering solutions for our toughest challenges: getting people off the street and into stable housing and connected to services, making our communities safer, making our public schools stronger, building more workforce housing, and stabilizing the insurance market."

Republicans chided the governor after the prerecorded address.

“After watching this, I’m not even sure the governor lives in the same state I do,” Assemblymember Joe Patterson, a Rocklin Republican, posted on X, formerly Twitter. “I know he spends a lot of time in other states and countries, but I didn’t expect ‘no one has done more on homelessness,’ ‘crime in GOP states is worse,’ and ‘CA is not a high tax state.’”

“Newsom liked to talk about other states and blame ‘radical right-wing forces,’" Patterson added in a statement to Courthouse News. "He can’t be serious. Democrats have been in charge of governance in California for a generation and all we see is increasing crime and homelessness, rising gas prices, and deteriorating test scores for our children enrolled in school."

State Senator Brian Dahle, a Bieber Republican, called the prerecorded address “cowardly.”

“Another cowardly and classic move by Newsom delivering a pre-recorded State of the State the same week as the presidential debate,” Dahle posted. “He’s hoping the media, Californians, and the rest of the nation won’t still be talking about his failed policies a few days from now.”

Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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