Go big or go home.

That seems to be the modus operandi for Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Republican candidates vying to replace him in an all-but-certain recall election. Newsom on Wednesday unveiled a $20 billion proposal to “reimagine” public schools, noting that it represents “the highest level of state school funding in California history.” Also Wednesday, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer vowed to implement the “largest middle-class tax cut in California history” if elected governor.

The emphasis on superlatives and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities underscores the scope of the promises both men are making to voters. The similarity in their language also suggests that Faulconer is trying to distance himself from the other GOP candidates, businessman John Cox — who launched his campaign alongside a 1,000-pound live bear — and reality star Caitlyn Jenner, whose claim she didn’t vote in the 2020 election was contradicted by records showing that she did.

The Wednesday events came amid Newsom’s weeklong tour across the state to tout pieces of his $100 billion “California Roars Back” plan, made possible by a massive budget surplus and an infusion of federal money.

Here’s a closer look at their proposals.

Newsom’s $20 billion school plan includes:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds by 2024.
  • $4 billion to address youth behavioral health.
  • $3.3 billion to recruit and train new teachers.
  • $3 billion to create thousands of “community schools” with wraparound mental health, social and family services.
  • $2 billion to create college savings accounts for 3.7 million students, with a base deposit of $500 for low-income students and $1,000 for homeless or foster youth. (Newsom launched a similar program as San Francisco mayor.)
  • $1.1 billion to improve the staff-to-student ratio in underserved communities.

Faulconer’s tax cut plan includes:

  • 0% marginal tax rate for the first $50,000 earned by individuals and the first $100,000 earned by families — for those making less than $1 million annually. Faulconer says 99% of taxpaying households would qualify for relief.
  • No taxes on military retirement income.

In any case, don’t expect the superlatives to end anytime soon. Newsom is set to unveil “the largest small-business relief program in the nation” today and hinted he’ll make a “rather significant announcement” about broadband access on Friday.

  • Newsom: “You’re going to be hearing a lot that may sound like hyperbole, talking in historic terms, transformative terms, but the reality is we are talking historic terms and transformational terms.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,658,198 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 61,305 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 33,118,249 vaccine doses, and 46.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. California pandemic updates

Medical assistant Letrice Smith fills syringes during a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Medical assistant Letrice Smith fills syringes at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic run at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Here’s a look at some key Wednesday updates in California’s pandemic response:

  • California authorized the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12-15. The move came after a group of experts from California and other Western states independently reviewed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to approve the vaccine for that age group. Starting today, California youth in that age range can make appointments for the Pfizer vaccine at myturn.ca.gov.
  • Newsom appeared to walk back his mask comments. After suggesting Tuesday that California would only require masks in “massively large (indoor) settings” starting June 15, the governor said Wednesday that “guidelines and mandates” would likely remain in place for all “indoor activities.”
  • California released data on COVID “breakthrough cases.” The figures show that of the roughly 13.5 million people fully vaccinated by May 5, about 3,620 tested positive for COVID-19, at least 150 were hospitalized and at least 20 died. However, health officials emphasized they were unable to determine how many hospitalizations or deaths were actually due to COVID-19.

2. Two pushes for transparency

The California Capitol building. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

The independent group of Californians charged with redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional districts has come under fire for holding private meetings with companies like Facebook and Google, working with a law firm that also represents the Legislature, and failing to publicly post meeting transcripts. Republican donor Charles Munger Jr., who was instrumental in creating the independent commission, accused it in a May 7 letter of violating state transparency laws. “I am sure that the public would like to know what the two social media giants think about redistricting too,” he wrote, referring to the commission’s private meetings with Facebook and Google. (Check out a commentary from the commission below.)

The commission is facing heightened political pressure as it redraws maps for the 2022 elections: Not only is it working under a pandemic-induced time crunch, but it also has to draw boundaries that account for California losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — possibly costing an incumbent his or her job.

In another push for transparency, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged Newsom in a Tuesday letter to reopen the state Capitol building, pointing out that it remains mostly closed to the public despite widespread business reopenings in the county and state.

  • The lawmakers: “This is the people’s house, and we are elected representatives here to do the people’s work. Ensuring access to our proceedings is a vital part of our democracy – in ways that are both practical and symbolic.”

3. Money for college athletes?

Cal safety Ashtyn Davis leaps over an opponent while running the ball during the Cal vs ASU game at Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Cal safety Ashtyn Davis leaps over an opponent during the Cal vs ASU game at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

College athletes could start being compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness as early as next month if state lawmakers succeed in accelerating a law originally set to take effect in 2023, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although California in 2019 became the first state in the nation to pass a college-athlete compensation law, other states have since approved similar measures slated to go into effect in July — causing some California legislators to worry the Golden State could be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting athletes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, meanwhile, is set to meet in May and June to consider permitting college athletes to be compensated.

Skinner is now pushing an update to the 2019 law that, if signed by Newsom, would make it effective immediately.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s population would have shrunk last year even if COVID-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head.

Deficiencies in our direct democracy: Big money has exploited California’s referendum process and is using it to advance their own causes, argues state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Van Nuys Democrat.

Participate in the redistricting process: California’s independent commission will use community input, along with census data, to draw the lines for up to 176 election districts, writes Alicia Fernández, chair of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

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Other things worth your time

Capitol’s biggest schools clash: To Zoom or not to Zoom? // Politico

San Diego employers are mostly not allowing remote work post-pandemic, report finds. // San Diego Union-Tribune

OC grand jury issues scathing report on county’s pandemic response, plans. // Voice of OC

Another consequence of Los Angeles homelessness: 24 fires a day. // Los Angeles Times

Mental health patient was sent to the wrong clinic, and two were killed. Who’s to blame? // Sacramento Bee

California attorney general complaint accuses Sacramento surgeon of sexual misconduct, gross negligence. // Sacramento Bee

California laws go easier on rapists who attack their spouses. Legislation to change that has gone nowhere. // San Francisco Chronicle

In midst of rise of hate and racism in Orange County, district attorney announces new hate crimes unit. // Orange County Register

Man sues LAPD after uncle allegedly directed officers to shoot him during a Black Lives Matter protest. // Los Angeles Times

Two California police officers fatally shot within 24 hours. // Associated Press

San Diego Unified superintendent to become U.S. deputy education secretary. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Californians see Kamala Harris as ready to take on presidency, poll shows. // Los Angeles Times

Grenell still weighing California recall bid as Republican field grows. // Politico

Fresno hasn’t heard back on offer to house migrant children. // Fresno Bee

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...