Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his fourth State of the State address.
Before Newsom’s speech, California Republicans posted a video of Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares (R-Newhall) countering the main points in the governor’s upcoming address.
After he spoke, state Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), who is a candidate for Governor, delivered the official Republican rebuttal.
Newsom delivered his 18-minute speech from the auditorium of the California Natural Resources Agency in front of a joint session of the Legislature. For him, the address was unusually brief. He remarked as he began speaking, “I don’t imagine there are many people outside these walls waiting on the words that will be said here tonight … as the people of Ukraine continue to come under assault”
Newsom touted that California is a beacon of democratic principles offering opportunity to all.
“Take our Constitutional officers here tonight,” he said. “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.”
Newsom used the expression “The California Way” to laud California’s leadership in research, innovation, entrepreneurialism, and venture capital. It is why California is the World’s fifth largest economy and why its GDP growth consistently outpaces the rest of the nation and most other large Western democracies, he said.
“In December alone” Newsom boasted, “25 % of America’s jobs were created right here in California. A million new jobs in the last 12 months. More new business starts during the worst of the pandemic than Texas and Florida combined.”
Under Newsom’s administration, Californians have received the largest state tax rebate in American History.
He continued his speech, listing more accomplishments.
“We raised the minimum wage. We increased paid sick leave. Provided more paid family leave. Expanded childcare to help working parents. And this year, with your support, we will do something no other state in America has done — provide health for all, regardless of immigration status”
Although there are numerous achievements for which the Governor can take credit, other daunting challenges Californians face every day remain. In their rebuttal, the Republicans zeroed in on those problems, which they describe as Newsom’s failures due to “one party state rule.”
Valladares began her pre-rebuttal of Newsom’s address by saying, “You can expect big claims about California leading the way on any number of issues. But if you want to know the real state of the state, just look around,” as she stood in front of a homeless encampment.
“In every community, impoverished, mentally ill and drug-addicted Californians are living and dying on the streets. Half of the country’s unsheltered homeless live on our streets,” she said.
Another Newsom failure Valladares point out is “a tidal wave of crime that is washing over our communities.” She attributes the increase to watered-down prison sentences, early release and the elimination of cash bail promoted by “elitist politicians” and “activist district attorneys.”
In his rebuttal, Dahle focused on high gas prices.
“California has, by far, the highest cost at the pump. Cross the state line in any direction and you’ll save $1 a gallon,” he said. “Our prices are even higher than Hawaii, an island out in the middle of the Pacific.”
Dahle expressed concerned that, “when the current governor was running for office, he talked about his big plans to fix the housing shortage by adding 3.5 million new homes by 2025. Unfortunately, the big talk has brought no results.”
Another Dahle concern is, “a mass exodus has swept across California. People and businesses are leaving the state’s hostile business climate. That has real consequences.”
Newsom’s order to shut down business to mitigate COVID-19 spread disrupted lives in so many ways, according to Dahle. He also said that California schools were closed longer than any other state and the administration’s mask and vaccine mandates as well as other COVID protocols were stricter than any other state, causing learning loss and health challenges among students.
Newsom acknowledged the gas crisis in his State of the State.
“Look, no one’s naïve about the moment we’re living in, with high gas prices and the geopolitical uncertainty fueling them. In January we proposed to pause the gas tax increase. Now, it’s clear we must go further. That’s why — working with Legislative leadership — I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices.”
Speaking about homelessness, Newsom noted that, “Just a few years ago, California lacked any comprehensive strategy. In just 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 admitted, “And while we moved a record 58,000 people off the streets since the beginning of the pandemic, we recognize we have more to do.”
Newsom talked about tackling education problems by introducing a new grade he’s calling “transitional kindergarten,” and expanding before and after school programs. He is also funding universal school meals and child savings accounts.
Unapologetically, Newsom said, “our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives. Our mask mandates saved lives. Your choices saved lives. California experienced far lower COVID death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio. Fewer than Florida — 35 %, to be exact.”
Whether they heard Newsom’s speech or the Republican rebuttals, Californians are aware of the state of the state as they are filling up their gas tanks, searching for a house to buy, trying to rent an apartment or deciding whether they should continue wearing a mask in public.
What they need to hear from Democrats and Republicans is less rhetorical crossfire and more detailed proposals aimed at solving the many challenges of living in California.