Good morning, California.

“Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for president. But I am proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to remove a president.”—Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge fund billionaire, climate change warrior and Trump impeachment enthusiast, announcing in Des Moines that he will not run for president in 2020.

CA Repubs draw the line on Trump

Victims displaced by the Camp Fire in line for FEMA assistance.

President Donald Trump set off alarms early Wednesday with a tweet threatening to cut Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid to California, a step that would strike hardest in some of the few remaining GOP strongholds in California.

Trump’s tweet: “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”

Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted back. No surprise there. But several Republican legislators had a less expected message for their president: Back off.

  • Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle represents the Redding area, where the Carr Fire destroyed 1,600 structures and killed eight people last summer: “It’s like, come on, really? People are out out of their homes. To me, it is real. We need FEMA and we’re using it.”
  • Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin issued a statement: “California needs to do a better job in managing its forests, but FEMA funds must not become bargaining chips in political arguments.” (Kiley and Dahle are running for an open state Senate seat in a fire-prone mountain district north and east of Sacramento.)
  • Assembly Republican leader Marie Waldron of Escondido: “Californians in fire areas have lost everything. They should not be victimized again because of a political squabble.”
  • Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher, who represents the area devastated by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and destroyed Paradise, said “the President’s threat to withhold FEMA funds from California is wholly unacceptable.”
  • Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen of Tehama County co-signed Gallagher’s statement.

An exception: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, said “the President and his administration understand the severity of the devastation and have delivered for Californians.”

Forget the tweet—fear the shut-down

Trump toured the Camp Fire devastation in November.

  • President Donald Trump’s threat to cut federal disaster aid to California fire victims most likely is empty. But the federal government shutdown could be having a real impact on the ability to prevent and combat forest fires.
  • “Training has been halted for thousands of western firefighters,” reports McClatchy’s Washington Bureau. “The U.S. Forest Service can’t let contracts for needed equipment. In forests across the West, no federal employees are doing work to reduce dry ‘fuel’ that feeds catastrophic blazes.”

State and federal firefighting agencies use the winter months to prepare for fire season. But the report by McClatchy-DC’s Stuart Leavenworth notes that if shutdown drags on, “federal fire crews won’t be ready for the months ahead.”

Let the budgeting begin

Gov. Gavin Newsom has already hinted at major proposals.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first-ever budget gets unveiled this morning. His team has already leaked some key line items from the $200 billion-plus proposal, and the governor this week promised “an interesting surplus,” even more interesting than the $15 billion projected by the summer of next year.

What we know is in the budget so far:

  • $1.8 billion for early childhood education and childcare.
  • $105 million (on top of $200 million approved last year) for wildfire prevention.
  • $40 million for a second year of free community college tuition for Californians.
  • An adjustment of the state trust fund reserve rules to extend California’s paid family leave program beyond the current six weeks to as long as six months with partial pay for new parents.
  • $140 million to expand Medi-Cal coverage to young adults between 19 and 25 who are undocumented.
  • Subsidized premiums for Californians who can’t afford health insurance, paid for by a reinstatement of the Obamacare penalty, in this state only, for those who choose not to be covered.

Not in the budget, but also an important health care piece, is an executive order directing the state’s agencies, including the one that oversees Medi-Cal, to negotiate as one, the better to bargain with prescription drug makers. The move will make California the nation’s largest negotiator against pharmaceutical companies—and could prove a model for other states. Even Trump likes it, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera writes.


And in the fine print, Alzheimer’s research

A small but potentially significant earmark will also be tucked into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget: $3 million for Alzheimer’s Disease research.

  • California would be the first state to devote tax money to researching the irreversible, progressive brain disorder in women and people of color, if the Legislature approves it.

Former California First Lady Maria Shriver advocated for the expenditure.

Shriver: “California is declaring that exploring the brain is a ‘moonshot’ opportunity. The state will be attempting to do what no other state has done and make understanding our brains a priority, just as it has been a priority to explore the moon, the stars and the planets in the past.”

Why Shriver: Shriver’s father, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and died in 2011. Shriver is the niece of President John F. Kennedy and was married to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her former chief of staff, Daniel Zingale, is among Newsom’s top aides.

How to expand kindergarten

Where to begin with universal preschool.

Before Gavin Newsom can reach his goal of universal preschool, California first must have full-day kindergarten. Which requires more tiny infrastructure than Californians might think.

Newsom today will propose $750 million to expand kindergarten, reports CALmatters’ Judy Lin. Much of that will be one-time money, and much will go toward dealing kindergarteners’ basic bodily functions.

  • Translation: Little kids have little bladders, and kindergarten (and preschool) classrooms have to be set up for a 5-year-old’s needs.

Will Newsom meet his match in the DMV?

'Time for a reinvention,' the governor says.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, a thorn in the side of governors going back decades, has caught Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early attention.

Newsom: “By any metric, California DMV has been chronically mismanaged and failed in its fundamental mission to the state customers it serves and the state workers it employs. It’s time for a reinvention.”

When Pete Wilson was governor in 1994, a state audit found the DMV wasted $50 million on a doomed computer project, ignoring signs of trouble in the system and bypassing state cost control safeguards. The audit noted that “officials were provided with ample evidence of serious trouble as early as 1990,” when George Deukmejian was governor, and only $14.8 million had been spent on the project.

  • Under Gov. Jerry Brown, the DMV has struggled to implement the new motor voter program, and botched the registration of as 23,000 people. During the 2018 campaign, Newsom’s opponent, John Cox, tried to attract attention by passing out bottled water to customers waiting for hours in unacceptably long lines.

Newsom is turning to Marybel Batjer, California’s Government Operations Agency secretary, to sort it all out this time. Batjer is not new to complex and thankless jobs. Brown tasked her to streamline state civil service practices to encourage young people to apply for state jobs, as baby boomers retire.

Commentary at CALmatters

Marc Joffe, Reason Foundation: California’s state and local agencies have $187 billion in unfunded retiree health care and other benefit liabilities that threaten to crowd out public services, such as public safety and education, that Californians expect government to provide. Government must confront the debt.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: California chronically fails in using technology to improve state government operations, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to fix it.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.