Day-to-day life is getting more expensive in California, which already has a higher percentage of residents living in poverty than any other state in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account.

That’s because skyrocketing inflation rates pushed consumer prices nationwide up 6.2% in October compared to the same time last year — the largest annual increase in more than three decades, according to federal data released Wednesday.

Gas prices shot up a jaw-dropping 49.6%, with California snagging the title of the nation’s most expensive market. A gallon of gas cost an average of $4.63 in the Golden State on Wednesday, with some cities — including San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento — notching their highest-ever recorded average gas price in the past week. But it isn’t just gas: Californians are paying more for goods ranging from food to used cars to electricity. In the Bay Area, for example, home electricity costs 9% more than it did last year, and price tags for meat, poultry, fish and eggs have jumped 14%.

  • San Jose resident Ken Phan: “Gasoline is very high and the cost is really squeezing me. I will have to spend less on other things because I have to buy gas.”

The rising cost of living presents a challenge for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who touted California’s economic prowess Tuesday and said residents are “going to have good news coming soon on next year’s budget surplus.” But, despite this year’s record-breaking surplus — much of which Newsom and state lawmakers invested in safety net programs — a whopping 69% of Californians told the Public Policy Institute of California they believe the gap between rich and poor is widening in their region.

Economists say rising consumer prices are partly due to ongoing supply chain backlogs. On Wednesday, 78 container ships were waiting to unload cargo at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, up from the 58 idling in mid-October, when President Joe Biden announced the two ports would move toward 24/7 operations. But officials said their plan to start charging shipping companies on Nov. 15 for leaving containers too long at the ports appears to be working: More than 10,000 boxes have already been cleared from the docks.

And in an effort to address the shortage of drivers transporting goods away from the ports, the California DMV announced Wednesday it will nearly double its capacity to conduct commercial driving tests by offering them at more locations. 

Meanwhile, the supply chain snarls, coupled with persistent labor shortages, continue to drive prices up.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,714,839 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 72,132 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 54,700,680 vaccine doses, and 66.3% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated. (This percentage fell due to children ages 5-11 recently becoming eligible for the vaccine.)

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1. California COVID update

Madeleine Strickland, 11, receives the COVID vaccine at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

California is increasingly cracking down on doctors that it believes are giving students unjustified exemptions for school-mandated vaccines — a battle that will likely intensify next year, when the COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be added to that list for certain age groups. From 2016 to 2019, California only disciplined one doctor for approving unjustified vaccine exemptions — but since 2020, that number has jumped to 12, with an additional six cases pending, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Newsom administration has declined to explain why students must get the vaccine once it’s fully approved for their age group, but teachers — for whom the shot is already fully approved — can currently opt to take weekly tests instead.

In many parts of the state, vaccine mandates appear to be having the intended effect — so far, only three Los Angeles Police Department employees have been placed on leave for refusing to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate. And a whopping 93% of bars, 94% of nightclubs and 100% of lounges are complying with Los Angeles County’s requirement to verify customers’ vaccination status, though some Bay Area restaurants continue to defy similar mandates. Meanwhile, as state health officials urge Californians to get vaccinated and boosted, coronavirus outbreaks are popping up everywhere from Santa Clara County jails to UC Berkeley’s football team.

To help the state fend off a possible winter surge, Newsom on Wednesday extended a previous executive order giving health care facilities more flexibility to handle an uptick in patients. And Santa Clara County became the first to authorize booster shots for all adults vaccinated six or more months ago.

2. Redistricting commission releases first maps

A redistricting illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Well, they’re finally here: the preliminary maps outlining what California’s congressional and legislative districts could look like for the next 10 years, starting with the 2022 elections. On Wednesday, California’s independent redistricting commission released the maps for public comment, which it will collect in at least four meetings before finalizing the districts by a Dec. 27 court-ordered deadline. Who are the maps’ early winners and losers, and which incumbents do they suggest might be most at risk in 2022? CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal breaks it down.

Sameea will also be moderating a virtual panel on Wednesday, Nov. 17 featuring labor leader and activist Dolores Huerta, who will discuss redistricting and California’s Latino community. Register here for the event organized by the Latino Community Foundation.

3. How do CA’s transportation goals stack up?

Morning commuters head westbound on route 580 toward Oakland on July 22, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Morning commuters head westbound on Interstate 580 toward Oakland on July 22, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California’s efforts to curb vehicle emissions were both lauded and surpassed Wednesday, when countries attending the United Nations climate change conference pledged to end the sale of new gas-powered cars in major markets by 2035 and globally by 2040, mirroring an announcement Newsom made last year. But the nations also agreed to eliminate the sale of gas-powered trucks and buses by 2040 — which goes beyond California’s current mandate to ramp up the sale of zero-emissions trucks starting in 2024, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. California signed on in support of both international agreements, but the United States did not — indicating that the Golden State may be at the forefront of the nation’s transportation policy but not necessarily the world’s. Indeed, California’s global ranking for zero-emissions vehicle sales is slipping behind “almost everyone,” Daniel Sperling, a member of the California Air Resources Board, told Rachel. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told me this week that other countries are “certainly ahead of where we are” on transportation and “I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore.”

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A new poll indicates that most Californians don’t agree with Newsom’s description of the state economy as surging and “dominant.”

California should keep Diablo Canyon open: If we decommission this nuclear power plant, there’s a serious chance we won’t be able meet our emission reduction targets while also maintaining grid reliability, argue Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a San Luis Obispo Republican, and Dawn Ortiz-Legg, a Democratic San Luis Obispo County supervisor.

Protect public lands and rivers: Accessing parks, trails and other open space is not only good for our mental and physical health — it’s critical to addressing the climate crisis, writes Thomas Wong of the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District.

Other things worth your time

Saving nuclear plant could help California hit climate goals, report finds. // Reuters

California bans insurance companies from dropping 2021 wildfire survivors. // Sacramento Bee

Several groups sue EPA over unhealthy San Joaquin Valley air. // Fresno Bee

Airport workers, residents rally against LAX modernization plan. // Orange County Register

COVID-19 has cost city fire department $22.5 million in overtime. // Los Angeles Times

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley to retire in March. // Orange County Register

Group seeking to recall Councilman Mike Bonin says it has enough signatures. // Los Angeles Times

Staffing shortage forces deactivation of High Desert State Prison’s B Yard. // Lassen News

‘It’s a nightmare.’ Downtown jail incubates dangerous inmates and unleashes them on us. // Sacramento Bee Opinion

Panel endorses plan to give guns to city park rangers. // Los Angeles Times

Cop fired over sex crime fights for CalPERS disability pension. // Sacramento Bee

California man gets 30 years in prison for $1 billion Ponzi scheme. // Associated Press

Outside auditor takes critical look at state stem cell agency. // Capitol Weekly

California high court to consider law on misgendering nursing home patients. // San Francisco Chronicle

Karen Bass obtained ethics waiver to receive USC scholarship. // Los Angeles Times

USC pushed a $115,000 online degree. Graduates got low salaries, huge debts. // Wall Street Journal

California roadkill report names deadliest highways. // NBC Bay Area

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...