Newsom outlines investment plan for San Joaquin Valley

In Summary

"My commitment to you is to make it real," the governor said. He also announced $23 million in philanthropic investment for inland California nonprofits.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $10 million plan to improve Fresno’s public schools during his visit to the city on Friday.

Newsom delivered the keynote speech during the second day of the eighth annual California Economic Summit, which brought together over 800 civic and business leaders in downtown Fresno.

“I care deeply about this damn Valley because I care about this state,” Newsom said. “I’m so sick and tired of this notion that somehow we’re living in two different worlds in the state, coastal economy and inland economy.”

The $10 million investment will go toward one of the 18 DRIVE initiatives proposed by the Central Valley Community Foundation and 150 local organizations as part of a $4.2 billion investment plan to revitalize Fresno.

“What you put together, that document, is as good as it gets,” Newsom said of the investment plan. “It is the spirit of regions rising together and it’s a template for this state. It really is. And so my commitment to you is to make it real.”

The funding will go to Fresno, Clovis, Central and Sanger school districts as well as the State Center Community College District, Fresno State and Fresno Pacific University.

“Today’s investment announcement from the governor is an important first step toward ensuring our students have access to college, and the support needed to complete their degrees and certificates,” said Ashley Swearengin, CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation.

Another $23 million

Newsom also announced $23 million in philanthropic investment for Inland California nonprofits from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Sierra Health Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The decision on which groups receive that funding will be announced in the coming weeks, according to Jesse Melgar, Newsom’s deputy director of media and public affairs.

The Newsom administration also will establish field offices in state buildings in Fresno and Riverside that will open by the end of the year, according to Melgar.

In addition, Newsom announced he would convene stakeholders to discuss a comprehensive “broadband for all plan” to close the state’s digital divide.

During the speech, he sang the Central Valley’s praises for being “the doers, not just the dreamers.”

“Look where UC Merced is going. Look at what Fresno State has done in these communities. Look at the medical investments that are happening. It’s remarkable and we should be proud of that. Sure, there’s stubborn, historic factors we have to work on. But there’s plans now, there’s intentionality, there’s focus, there’s passion.”

There was some banter, particularly about President Donald Trump.

“I know everyone says people are in politics for all the wrong reasons,” Newsom said. “They all didn’t get hugs from their mothers when they were kids. And that’s true for some, there’s no doubt. You’ve got a president in the White House that didn’t get hugs from his dad.”

Revenue worries

In a meeting with The Fresno Bee editorial board following his keynote, Newsom said his administration was committed to getting more funding for the DRIVE initiative in the next budget, but they were seeing volatility in sales tax revenues.

“That’s the canary for us,” Newsom said. “I don’t want to suggest we’re in descent. But we’re about to enter into our descent. We’ve been at a cruising altitude for a while. And so these $20 billion surplus years, I don’t think they’re behind us in perpetuity, but I think in the short run we should expect more modest numbers.”

Newsom added that he’s committed to delivering on high-speed rail in the Central Valley.

“I’ve been very candid about that. Let’s get this 171-mile project done. My commitment in that State of the Stateis to refocus our efforts. To double down on the Central Valley but to extend it to Merced and Bakersfield and basically capture the existing and available funds,” Newsom said.

The state still lacks the funding sources to put an end date on the multi-billion dollar project, he said.

Manuela Tobias is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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