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BY Sameea Kamal January 11, 2023
Presented by Prologis, California Water Service, American Pistachio Growers and Cal Needs Assessment

Let California’s budget haggling begin

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s big budget reveal Tuesday morning is only a first step in a long process: Legislators hold hearings, number crunchers update revenue projections, Newsom presents a revised version in May and he negotiates with the Legislature before approval by June 15. 

But that isn’t stopping advocacy groups, Republican officials and others from reacting loudly, and somewhat predictably, to Newsom’s $297 billion spending plan, which takes into account a projected $22.5 billion deficit and is about 3.6% smaller than last year’s record budget. 

The state budget is about numbers and dollars, but it’s also about values and priorities. And while some, especially those shielded from any cuts, supported the governor’s decisions, others had some choice words:

From advocacy groups:  

  • Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California: “This budget repeats the same mistakes of our past: returning to the boom and bust approach of funding our public health workforce is what left California vulnerable to COVID-19.”
  • Yvonne Cottage, Child Care Providers United: “We are disappointed to see child care expansion delayed at a time when families are still in critical need of quality, affordable child care for all ages.”
  • Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California: “Health care affordability help for middle-class Californians is more needed in an economic downturn, not less.”
  • Chione Lucina Muñoz Flegal, Housing California: “We’re really navigating the dueling emotions of being relieved that we didn’t see more significant cuts in the housing sphere and really disappointed that we’re still not investing anywhere near the scale of the need.” 

From Republicans:

  • Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield: “A Band-Aid on the damage that his over-taxing, over-regulating, and over-spending has done to California’s families and businesses.”
  • Republican Assembly leader James Gallagher of Chico: “Democrat politicians have wasted a record surplus on new social programs and pork projects, while allowing our aging infrastructure to crumble.”

And even some fellow Democrats: 

  • Jasmeet Bains, an Assemblymember from Bakersfield: “…When it comes to combating the opioid epidemic this proposal needs a lot of work. … California needs to move beyond Band-Aid solutions that fail to address the root causes of the problem.”
  • Chris Ward, an Assemblymember from San Diego: “California needs to move away from its fossil fuel dependence that continues to contribute to the climate crisis.”

Ward is referring to the approximately $6 billion in cuts to climate initiatives, which Newsom has repeatedly called top priorities. Environmentalists are also unhappy, CalMatters’ Nadia Lopez reports. The governor helped push a five-year $54 billion climate package approved by the Legislature last year, but he now proposes to cut it to $48 billion. More than half of the proposed cuts — $3.3 billion — come from the state’s clean transportation initiatives. 

For more analysis on how the proposed budget affects key agencies and issues, read the wrap-up from Alexei Koseff and the entire CalMatters team. (By the way, Tuesday’s newsletter mistakenly added some zeros to Newsom’s proposal on flood protection: $202 million, not billion.)

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1 From Feinstein to Porter?

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter of California speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on August 7, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

What would it mean for Democratic Rep. Katie Porter to take over Dianne Feinstein’s U.S. Senate seat?

It might seem early — even unseemly — to ask: Feinstein, 89, whose mental fitness has been questioned quietly and not so quietly, hasn’t officially announced whether she plans to seek a sixth six-year term. Porter was sworn into the 118th Congress just four days ago. And there are still 14 months until California’s 2024 presidential primary.

But Porter isn’t waiting around, declaring Tuesday that “California needs a warrior in the Senate.”  

That’s on brand for a favorite of many progressives: In the first 24 hours after her announcement, her campaign brought in $1.3 million, according to Politico.

Porter, 49, a former law professor and protégé of progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren, climbed to notoriety — explanatory whiteboard in hand — as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, where she blasted corporate CEOs and other finance industry reps. And while she’s no longer on the committee, she’s still making headlines: Last week, during Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s tumultuous bid for House speaker, Porter went viral for her choice of reading material – a not-so-subtle book

If she wins, Porter would be a departure from Feinstein, known for her more moderate approach to issues including climate change, gun control and civil rights. Still, Porter won a third term in an Orange County district split nearly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, showing she may be equipped for the politics of the moment.

Porter isn’t the only Democrat who may have an eye on Feinstein’s seat. Others include U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Ro Khanna of Fremont and Barbara Lee of Oakland. With California’s top-two primary system, there could be two Democrats on the November 2024 ballot, or Democrats could split the vote.  

And the race could start a series of political dominoes: Former Assembly Republican Leader Scott Baugh, who lost to Porter in November, quickly announced he’ll run again in the House district. So did Democrat Harley Rouda, who lost his congressional seat in 2020 and briefly considered running against Porter last year. If any other members of Congress eventually run, that would open up their seats as well. Then, if legislators run for Congress, that would clear their seats. And so on. 

In other news that proves that election campaigns never end, Democrat Kipp Mueller, who narrowly lost to Republican state Sen. Scott Wilk in 2020, announced that he’ll run in the 23rd District — an open seat in 2024, when Wilk reaches his term limit.

2 Women’s caucus flexes its muscle

UFC President Dana White is seen during the ceremonial weigh-in for a mixed martial arts event on July 15, 2022, in Elmont, N.Y. Photo by Gregory Payan, AP Photo

In one of its first actions of the new session, the Legislative Women’s Caucus is demanding that the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship group remove Dana White, president of the mixed martial arts promotional company, after video emerged of him slapping his wife, Anne White, at a nightclub in Mexico on New Year’s Eve. 

“We are allies against violence, advocates for women, and we are parents like yourself,” the caucus wrote Monday to Ari Emanuel, CEO of UFC parent company Endeavor, which is headquartered in Beverly Hills. UFC is a lucrative, if bloody, enterprise.  

The caucus has an all-time high of 50 members and is part of the new Legislature’s record diversity. (Tuesday, it also put out a statement on Newsom’s budget, calling for more child care money.)

In an interview after the incident with TMZ, White apologized and said there were “no excuses” for his actions. In a separate statement to TMZ, his wife said it was “an isolated incident.”

In its letter, the caucus said it had seen the apology, but there still need to be consequences, especially given that White has spoken out against domestic violence: “The hypocrisy is astounding. Enough is enough.”

But today, White told reporters he won’t step down and isn’t being punished. 

3 Storms’ death toll rises

Lisa Bailey of Capitola wades through ankle-deep water in Aptos on Jan. 5, 2023. Photo by Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

At least 17 people had died as of Tuesday night in the series of intense storms slamming the state since late December. They’re causing significant flooding, toppling trees and putting thousands of families in the dark. In the Bay Area, heavy rainstorms flooded dozens of sewers and some treatment plants, causing sewage to spill out into creeks and city streets. 

The cost to repair the storm damage could be upwards of $1 billion, Adam Smith, an applied climatologist and disaster expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Los Angeles Times. The White House announced Tuesday that President Biden has added 14 counties to his emergency declaration that frees up federal aid, bringing the total to 31 of California’s 58 counties.  

After his two-hour budget presentation, Gov. Newsom went to Santa Cruz County to survey storm damage and issue another warning to be careful. He also did an interview with the Weather Channel in which he said the biggest challenge is the scale of the atmospheric rivers and the different problems they pose from one part of California to another, and from one day to the next. Tuesday delivered thunderstorms and tornado warnings. And the storms are forecast to continue for another week

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom’s inauguration event was the latest example of the governor talking the talk on democracy, but keeping the press at a distance.

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See you tomorrow

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

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