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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven October 14, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Californians Against Higher Taxes, Save our Capitol and Sutter Health

Californians confront rising cost of living

If you’ve got your mind on your money and your money on your mind, you aren’t alone.

Driven largely by increases in the cost of food, housing and health care, inflation rose 8.2% in September compared to the same time last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday.

And the core inflation rate — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — soared by 6.6% over the same period, marking the largest uptick in four decades, according to the department.

The news doesn’t bode well for 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.

And Californians are also paying the highest gas prices in the country, according to AAA: Although the average cost for a gallon of regular fell to $6.20 in the Golden State on Thursday — down from a near-record high of $6.42 last week — that’s still much higher than the national average of $3.91.

But relief is on the way: California last week began sending $9.5 billion worth of rebates to millions of residents to help cover the soaring cost of living, though some may not see their checks until January.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced last week that it’s set to distribute a second round of $1.4 billion by the end of the year to help cover utility bills for Californians behind on their electricity and water payments.

And Newsom’s office continues to point to his proposal to enact a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry — which he wants state lawmakers to consider in a special legislative session starting Dec. 5 — as a way to return more money to Californians.

  • Newsom’s office tweeted Thursday: “Oil companies saw the biggest one-day wholesale price drop EVER after CA took action to lower gas prices… but those savings aren’t being passed to you. It doesn’t add up. Time to take the windfall profits of greedy oil companies and put that $$ back in your pockets.”
  • Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are making inflation rates a centerpiece of their campaigns heading into the Nov. 8 election.
  • Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City said in a Thursday statement: “Bidenflation combined with skyrocketing cost of living in California is crushing family budgets. There’s no more denying it … the policy agenda of the Democrat supermajority is failing and we’re witnessing the consequences in real time. It doesn’t have to be this way. Republicans have offered an alternative with solutions that will bring down costs and allow Californians to prosper.” 
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,458,792 confirmed cases and 95,604 deaths, according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 82,374,643 vaccine doses, and 72.3% of eligible Californians have completed their primary vaccine series.

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1 Desalination plant coming to Orange County

Pipes containing drinking water at the Poseidon Water desalination plant in Carlsbad on June 22, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

California may be in the throes of a rare fall monsoon causing wetter-than-usual weather across much of the state, but it’s likely still headed into a fourth straight year of drought after experiencing its second-warmest September on record. Citing the importance of bolstering California’s water supplies — especially as the Colorado River falls to historic lows, imperiling much of Southern California — state regulators on Thursday unanimously approved a $140 million desalination plant in Orange County, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. The decision from the California Coastal Commission — which came five months after it rejected a high-profile proposal for a $1.4 billion desalination plant, also in Orange County — indicates that state regulators are open to the strategy of turning salty seawater into drinking water.

  • Commissioner Dayna Bochco: “I feel that the commission has been under kind of a cloud of doubt from the people who believe in desal — that we were somehow going to turn down any project whether it was a good one or a bad one. And I’m glad now that we can show the other agencies and whoever else is interested in this that we are fully supportive of desal, when it’s a good project.”
  • But another controversial vote looms: Next month, the commission is set to weigh in on a proposed desalination facility in the Monterey County city of Marina, which has garnered steep local opposition — including from the city of Marina itself, Rachel notes.

2 Hurtado wants state to address rising crime in Kern County

A memorial is set up on the corner of Foothill Road and Morning Drive for 17-year-old Jose Flores in east Bakersfield on Nov. 16, 2021. Flores was stabbed and killed in a fight near Foothill High School in January 2020. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

In an unusual move, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Hanford asked Attorney General Rob Bonta in a Thursday letter to create a special state Department of Justice law enforcement unit to address “rising violence, including homicide rates,” in Kern County, which she described as “rural and underfunded.” Hurtado cited McFarland Unified School District’s Tuesday decision to cancel athletic events for the rest of the week after a “rash of violence,” including a Monday shooting in Delano that left two people dead. Two school districts in North Kern — Wasco Union High and Delano Joint Union High — also canceled sports events out of an abundance of caution, according to the Bakersfield Californian.

“The Delano area does have gang and narcotics issues, and surrounding law enforcement is doing the best they can with the resources they have,” Delano High football coach Frank Gonzalez Jr. told the Bakersfield Californian. “These are issues that take time and a lot of manpower.” McFarland Police Chief Kenny Williams added, “For as long as I can remember, there’s always been gang issues between the city of McFarland and Delano.”

  • Indeed, Republican-led Kern County has long struggled with violence: As CalMatters’ Nigel Duara has reported, it had a homicide rate of 12.7 per 100,000 residents in 2020, the highest of any county in California.
  • And it notched a homicide rate of 13.7 in 2021, the highest among counties with populations of at least 100,000, according to data Bonta’s office released in August.
  • A Bonta spokesperson: “Our office always stands ready to work with our local partners to provide assistance wherever we are able to do so. That said, we’re currently reviewing the letter.”
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Get ready to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting in California’s Nov. 8 election in the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data.

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Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

The mystery behind L.A. racist tape scandal: Who leaked it — and why? // Los Angeles Times

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer urges city council to put redistricting reforms on ballot. // Daily News

USC offered Karen Bass scholarship before she was admitted to social work school, records show. // Los Angeles Times

Top Democratic women call out California state senator for downplaying unwanted hugging. // Sacramento Bee

Justice Dept. rules Orange County violated due process for defendants. // Washington Post

Here’s why California Lyft and Uber gig workers are forming a union that can’t bargain over a contract. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento faces homeless shelter funding shortfall as it grapples with surging unhoused population. // CapRadio

In Los Angeles, the people versus the palm trees. // New Yorker

More people say they intend to leave S.F. than any other major metro area. // San Francisco Chronicle

Mark Wahlberg left California for Nevada to give his kids ‘a better life.’ // CNN

Surge of respiratory illness pops up at San Diego school, inundating emergency room. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Latinos are increasingly leaning more Republican. But not so much in California. // Sacramento Bee

Stanford apologizes for 1950s policy that suppressed enrollment of Jewish students. // San Francisco Chronicle

Inside California’s — and the globe’s — effort to keep perfectly good food out of the dump. // New York Times

How Bay Area restaurants cater to the rich and famous. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you next week

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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