In summary

As California’s governor delivered his annual address — this time from Dodger Stadium — the CalMatters reporting team offered the following corrections, clarifications and context.

Thank you, Madame Lt. Governor, for your kind introduction.

And good evening to those joining us virtually tonight – Speaker Rendon, Pro Tem Atkins, members of the California Legislature, and to all of the elected, and state officials.

And to my amazing wife Jennifer, the First Partner of California.

Thank you all for being here in the most 2021 way possible, remotely.

Tonight, we mark an unprecedented moment in California history.

To reflect on where we’ve been this past year, let’s consider where we are.

I’m speaking to you from Dodger Stadium, transformed from the home of last year’s World Series champions into a centerpiece of America’s mass vaccination campaign.

One political upside of a remote State of the State speech: Dodger Stadium — temple of America’s favorite pastime, emblem of spring and renewal and now California’s most iconic vaccination site — is a tad more photogenic than the state Assembly chamber. — Ben Christopher 

Instead of fans in stands, we see nurses in PPE, saving lives one injection at a time.

All because, one year ago a once-in-a-century pandemic arrived on our shores.

COVID was no one’s fault – but it quickly became everyone’s burden.

Forcing hard-working Californians into impossible choices – go to work and risk infection, or stay home and lose your job.

A recent UC San Francisco study found that deaths among California food and agricultural workers increased 39% during the pandemic compared to prior years. Still, ag and other industries have pushed back against California’s new COVID-19 workplace safety standards. — Jackie Botts

It magnified daily worries about feeding your kids, paying rent, and keeping loved ones safe.

An estimated 600,000 to 2.1 million people in California are at risk of eviction. — Nigel Duara

It made the unthinkable, commonplace.

COVID patients cared for by doctors, nurses, and paramedics who, despite the chaos and risks to themselves, paused to hold the hands of strangers in their final moments.

Too many forever goodbyes over FaceTime.

54,395 Californians we now mourn with broken hearts.

Nearly half of those deaths have been Latinos, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The same is true among child cases, with Latino kids accounting for two-thirds of the cases and six of the 14 child deaths in the state. — Elizabeth Aguilera

That’s almost the same number of empty seats behind me, marking a silent tribute to loved ones who live forever in our memories.

54,395 Californians who will never be forgotten by family and friends – nor by the health care workers who bore witness to unimaginable tragedy.

But not every COVID hero wears scrubs.

From the grocery workers to custodians who get a fraction of the gratitude they deserve, to the parents who’ve juggled and struggled – moms especially – but kept charging ahead.

Union workers and suburban mothers are critical constituencies Newsom would want to keep on his side in a recall election. — Laurel Rosenhall

Your quiet bravery has created light in the darkest of times.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars.”

So tonight, under the lights of this stadium – even as we grieve – let’s allow ourselves to dream of brighter days ahead. Because we won’t be defined by this moment – we’ll be defined by what we do because of it.

On Sunday, the political campaign to oust Newsom announced it has gathered more than enough signatures to put a recall election on the ballot later this year. Assuming that’s right, Newsom had better hope he isn’t defined by this moment. — Ben Christopher

After all, we are California.

We don’t wait for someone else to show us the way forward. We go first, and we go boldly.

We led – on gay rights, gun safety, and criminal justice reform.

Past tense, apparently. This is the only mention of criminal justice reform — in one of the only states that doesn’t decertify police officers for misconduct and which still has some of the harshest sentencing laws in the country. — Robert Lewis

Many criminal justice advocates argue that the state completely botched the COVID-19 outbreaks, and fault Gov. Newsom for not releasing more people during the outbreaks. — Byrhonda Lyons

And now, we lead on combating COVID.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, California trusted in science and data.

We met the moment.

Mark your Newsom Lingo Bingo cards! — Ben Christopher

Last January, we welcomed Americans home, accepting repatriation flights from China.

And one year ago today, we brought to shore the Grand Princess, which was stranded off the coast of California, further opening our eyes to the seriousness of this disease.

CalMatters keeps a handy tick-tock of every key date of the pandemic’s stranglehold on California.

We were the first state to issue a stay-at-home order, which helped us avoid early spikes in cases.

Newsom earned major plaudits for his early, aggressive handling of the pandemic. That was before pandemic fatigue set in, mask-wearing became politicized, rafts of businesses started going under and Newsom was caught dining at one of the state’s fanciest restaurants contrary to the spirit of his own public health rules. Facing a recall, the governor wants us to remember when. — Ben Christopher

The top minds from our nation’s leading research institutions and life science companies immediately jumped into the development of groundbreaking treatments and vaccines.

While others competed to buy personal protective equipment at exorbitant prices, we quickly built our own pipeline, supplying critical gear to millions and millions of essential workers.

Early in the pandemic, California, like other states, scrambled to secure protective gear and other medical supplies. In a rush to acquire face masks, the state wired half a billion dollars to a three-day-old company, only to have the deal fall apart hours later. – Ana B. Ibarra

We sent ventilators and doctors to New York as well as other states that so desperately needed them.

We developed the most comprehensive COVID testing program in the country — including a first-in-the-nation state-run testing lab.

California opened a $25 million lab in October, after months of not being able to meet the demand for testing and growing public frustration over long waits for results. The lab helped boost the state’s testing capacity, but it didn’t come without issues —  last month the state reported it had found “significant deficiencies” during a routine inspection. – Ana B. Ibarra

We enlisted additional health care workers to expand capacity and we readied our ICUs. Our advance planning and curve flattening meant our hospitals were ready for surges.

During summer and winter surges, hospitals were so inundated and short on staff that some had to send patients to facilities outside their county. In December, ICU capacity dipped below 15% in most parts of California, which prompted a regional stay-at-home order. —  Ana B. Ibarra

All of which is why California’s death rate has remained one of the lowest per capita in the nation: 134 deaths per 100,000, compared to 158 nationally, 153 in Texas and 247 in New York. 

Now, finally, vaccines are here. We were the first to launch these mass-vaccination sites in partnership with FEMA, now a model for other states all across the country.

Two mass vaccination sites co-run by the state and FEMA opened in Oakland and Los Angeles. Newsom promised a third to Fresno, but that is still pending. — Ana B. Ibarra

Vaccinations are also happening inside the state’s prisons.  Around 40% of incarcerated Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. COVID-positive cases are the lowest they’ve been since early last year when the pandemic began. — Byrhonda Lyons

Today, we have the most robust vaccination program in America. Think about this: California now ranks sixth in the world for vaccine distribution, ahead of countries, not states, ahead of countries like Israel, Russia, Germany and France.

To date, California has administered 10.9 million vaccines, more than any other state. But it falls behind 37 states, including New York, Florida and Illinois in vaccines administered per capita. — Ana B. Ibarra

I know our progress hasn’t always felt fast enough.

The slow and often confusing rollout of the state’s vaccine program in January and February was a real political liability for the governor. Now that production is ramping up and some of the administrative kinks have been worked out, it’s obvious why the governor might prefer to make this speech now rather than January. — Ben Christopher

And look, we’ve made mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. But we own them, learn from them, and we never stop trying.

One mistake Newsom acknowledged last year: attending a lobbyist friend’s birthday party at the French Laundry while the governor was telling Californians to stay home and avoid socializing to stem the spread of the coronavirus. — Laurel Rosenhall

After all, that’s the California spirit.

We are bent but not broken. Bloodied but unbowed. Resolved to make brighter days ahead — to not let the pain of last year deter the hopefulness of tomorrow.

The state of our state, it remains determined. I remain determined!

We won’t change course just because of a few nay-sayers and dooms-dayers.

So to the California critics out there, who are promoting partisan power grabs with outdated prejudices, and rejecting everything that makes California truly great, we say this: we will not be distracted from getting shots in arms and our economy booming again. This is a fight for California’s future.

Newsom has deflected questions about a potential recall election, but seems to be finally addressing the likelihood that it will be on the ballot this year. — Laurel Rosenhall

“Partisan power grab” isn’t going quite as far as California Democratic Party chair Rusty Hicks, who likened the recall campaign to a “coup” back in January. But if Newsom can convince California’s mostly Democratic-supporting voters that the campaign is essentially a Republican effort, he’s very likely to survive. — Ben Christopher

You know, since this pandemic started, uncertainty has been the probably only thing we could be certain of.

But now, we are providing certainty.

Certainty that we are safely vaccinating Californians as quickly as possible.

Certainty that we are safely reopening our economy. 

Certainty that we are safely getting our kids back into the classrooms.

All of which adds up to a brighter future for our state.

Because California we’re not gonna come crawling back. We will roar back.

When this pandemic ends – and it will end soon – we’re not going back to normal. Because I think we all agree Normal was never good enough. Normal accepts inequity.

It’s why Latinos are dying from COVID at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, why essential workers’ wages aren’t enough for them to afford the essentials, and why mothers, mothers  have been leaving the workforce in staggering numbers.

Back to that sobering UC San Francisco study: The death rate among working-age Latinos increased by 36% during the pandemic, compared to a 6% increase among white Californians. — Jackie Botts

Look, our eyes are wide open to what’s wrong.

So, our journey back must also be a path to close inequities. There is no economic recovery without economic justice.

Crazy-high court fines and fees are one place the state could look. But California has become so dependent on this regressive form of revenue, no one’s quite sure where this $1.4 billion in funding each year would come from if not from the wallets of drivers and criminal defendants. — Robert Lewis 

With more compassion, more empathy, and more connection, we can write the next chapter in the California story.

After all, the answer to “what’s right” about our state is also readily available to us, so long as we stay focused on what makes California just so damn special.

You know, throughout this pandemic, we’ve been forced to find new ways to connect, new ways to collaborate, new ways to serve. New ways to grow, and new ways to innovate. And of course we have.

We have more scientists, engineers, researchers, and Nobel laureates than any other state. To keep this conveyor belt for talent moving, we will keep investing in our UCs, CSUs, and community colleges.

Last year’s state budget cut about $300 million each from the UC and CSU. but a deal last month between the governor and legislative leaders will restore those cuts this July. The governor in January also proposed new funding for both state college systems. — Mikhail Zinshteyn

California has the most innovation, venture capital, and small-business investment in this country. We will keep investing and fostering every small entrepreneur—the drivers of our GDP.

Our agricultural industry it feeds the nation, and California’s entertainment industry shapes global culture.

We build the future the rest of the world only dreams of. And I mean that, by the way, quite literally.

This year, we will invest $10 billion in the nuts and bolts of California – infrastructure like roads, rail, bridges and public transit – the biggest infrastructure package by the way since the great recession over a decade ago.


The state’s plan to close Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy this September will save the state about $180 million per year. It’s worth noting that the Legislative Analyst recommended the state close five state prisons by 2025 to save money. — Byrhonda Lyons

Building toward universal broadband, connecting all Californians equitably and affordably.

This is a perennial promise that politicians of all stripes love to make but which always seem to founder on budgetary reality. But this year there really is a legislative proposal in the works with plenty of early buy-in; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has said it’s a top priority, so 2021 really could be the year. — Ben Christopher

And investing in our most important asset we have, our children — you know we propose to invest a record amount in K-14 education this year.

Community colleges last year had to make do with less after the final state budget left them with $1.5 billion in IOUs. Newsom’s January budget plans to replenish about $1.1 billion of that starting this summer, giving community colleges more wiggle room in their finances. — Mikhail Zinshteyn

Because, by planning ahead and through prudent fiscal management, California benefits this year from surpluses – not deficits. Record reserves, not cuts.

We started the year with a $15 billion surplus, and since then our revenues have been even stronger, allowing us to provide for a down payment on building our brighter future.

That much-discussed California exodus of wealthy taxpayers? So far it hasn’t happened, according to early data and higher-than-usual tax receipts from affluent individuals, which have left the state budget in a much better position than expected. — Lauren Hepler

The building blocks of our recovery really are in place. And now we are leading the way out of this pandemic.

Because we listened to the experts—and we were guided by evidence.

Today, the light at the end of this tunnel is brighter than ever.

From the peak in early January, just think about this, from the peak of early January we’ve gone from reporting 53,000 COVID cases per day to 2,600. The positivity rate is down from 14 percent to just 2.1 percent today. Hospitalizations are down more than 80 percent since their peak. ICUs are down 77 percent.

And tonight, I’m proud to report that California has administered nearly 11 million doses. That’s three million more doses of vaccine than any other state in America.

So now, we look ahead to better days with the California can-do spirit – with the energy and optimism that defines us – we’re gonna beat this virus and we’re gonna realize our dream of a California for All.

How’re we gonna do it? Equitable and plentiful vaccines, economic support for those who’ve struggled the most, and getting kids safely back into schools as soon as possible.

First, we will make sure every Californian who needs a vaccine can get one. In our state, your access to vaccine must not depend on who you know.

See we prioritize those who are at the greatest risk and with greatest exposure to the virus. We don’t just talk about vaccine equity — we designed our entire system around it, setting aside 40 percent of vaccines to the most impacted communities.

Increased vaccine supply will go to 446 low-income ZIP codes largely in Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley.  — Ana B. Ibarra

You know, vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do, it is also the fastest way through the pandemic.

Grocery workers prioritized. School staff prioritized.  Farmworkers put to the front of the line.

Like 85-year-old Maria …I met her in Reedley…she came to this country from Mexico decades ago to find a job in our fields.

Maria said she was unsure – uncertain – about getting vaccinated, but after she received her shots, she’s now educating other farmworkers about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, helping them overcome similar anxieties.

The governor’s Twitter account highlighted Maria’s story in mid-February. Since then, he’s held a series press conferences in Central Valley communities, in an effort to both promote the vaccine and his own administration’s commitment to equity. — Jackie Botts

That’s the beauty of California. Leadership like Maria’s it isn’t ordained, it’s earned.

We’ve built a vaccination system where the only constraint now is manufactured supply.

Thanks to the Biden administration, those doses are on their way.

I’ve had the privilege over the last many weeks to travel the state and seen first-hand the strength of communities banding together in Coachella, Arvin, Camarillo, and Stockton, stepping up to vaccinate the most vulnerable and the too often overlooked.

Every Californian will have access to convenient shots – including those who are home-bound and those who don’t have transportation or the internet.

Now with greater supply, we’re starting to realize an old challenge starting to emerge, a challenge as old as vaccines themselves: hesitancy about whether to get it. Just ask Maria.

About 46,000 farmworkers in California have been infected with COVID-19, according to some estimates. And while there are concerns about vaccine hesitancy, local officials and advocates say the bigger issues continue to be supply and access. — Ana B. Ibarra

To address these concerns, we have a large network of trusted community partners. They are helping us spread the word, in many languages and across many different cultures.

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines will save your life.

Allowing you to visit your parents again. Go to your daughter’s basketball game. Show up for shift work without fearing an infection.

It was a year ago, a year ago, we made the incredibly difficult decision to issue a stay home order to slow the spread. You know we agonized about it, we agonized about the sacrifices it would require.

Those sacrifices proved extreme for many unemployed Californians. Large-scale business shutdowns fueled a record spike in jobless claims, mass confusion about delayed unemployment benefits, panic about fraud and left some jobless Californians struggling to survive. — Lauren Hepler

But we made sure that science – not politics – drove our decisions. 

And as experts like Dr. Fauci said, it was the right thing to do.

People are alive today because of the public health decisions we made – lives saved because of your sacrifice. Even so, even so I acknowledge it’s made life hard it’s made life unpredictable, and you’re exhausted with all of it.

For the millions of Californians pushed out of the workplace, pushed out of the workforce, force and essential workers with no choice but to keep showing up – you are the  ones we fight for.

Whether workers pushed out of the workforce will get the skills they need to get hired again is an open question. Usually, community college enrollment goes up during recessions as workers seek new skills, but the pandemic has upended that traditional script. — Mikhail Zinshteyn

We continue to work to safely reopen our economy – guided by equity principles, accounting for vaccines, moving as fast as we can. But we are mindful that we can’t let down our guard, particularly with so many new variants.

As of today, 24 of our 58 counties are out of the most restrictive tier, and many more are poised to move next week.

And once California administers 2 million vaccines (and later 4 million) in those hard-hit ZIP codes, it will loosen its case rate metric, allowing counties to more easily move to less restrictive tiers and further reopen. — Ana B. Ibarra

As we safely re-open, we are also mindful that we need to do more to provide financial relief. A few weeks ago, we took action to bring immediate stimulus to millions and millions of Californians.

We just directed $7.6 billion back to hard-working Californians and small businesses hit hardest by COVID. We didn’t wait for Washington, we acted with urgency.

That included the Golden State Stimulus, which will put $600 directly into the pockets of millions of families, no matter by the way, what their immigration status is.

Newsom’s Golden State Stimulus proposal actually includes extra help — up to $1,200 — for low-income undocumented immigrants who file taxes, but have been left out of federal relief efforts. All told, roughly 5.7 million Californians are set to get the payments in the coming weeks and months, though the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has warned that the $3.8 billion program is nowhere near large enough to actually “stimulate” California’s economy. — Jackie Botts 

If you’re wondering why the governor is giving his State of the State speech in March, as opposed to the customary January, this is one reason why. The governor is facing a very likely recall and this legislative package gives him a stronger rebuttal. — Ben Christopher

And it included supporting our essential workers, with new child care subsidies, more funding for food banks and diapers, as well as financial assistance for farmworkers.

Buried in California’s recent budget deal was a significant pivot to Newsom’s oft-touted Housing for the Harvest program to provide hotel rooms to farmworkers who can’t safely isolate or quarantine at home. As CalMatters reported, few farmworkers actually booked the rooms, often deterred by fear. Now California is shifting, spending $24 million to give farmworkers up to $1,000 in financial assistance if they get sick or are exposed, as well as nursing and meal assistance if they choose to shelter at home. — Jackie Botts

We’ll keep the dream alive, not only for families but for all the small businesses who’ve fought so hard to survive over the past year.

It’s that special mix of audacity, human capital, and creativity found only in California that means there’s literally no better place to do business.

California is where garages are the launch pads for world-changing industries and anyone with the telltale tenacity of a small business owner can create their own California Dream. But only if we nurture them.

That’s why we’re providing the largest small business grant program in the nation. $2.6 billion in grants, up to $25,000 for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the pandemic.

After fears from some small business owners that the state was investing “too little, too late” to prevent mass closures, California is ramping up cash aid to hard-hit sectors. More than 300,000 businesses applied for the first COVID-19 relief grants, and additional rounds will open in the coming weeks. Will it be enough? — Lauren Hepler

Behind these grants are countless stories of entrepreneurs and the dreams they’ve pursued with every ounce of energy that they have.

Like Francisco in Fresno, who received $5,000 to reopen his pastry business after being closed for nearly six months.

And Catarah, right here in LA, whose dessert cafe used a $15,000 grant to make payroll.

And 40,000 other businesses and counting, barbershops, auto repair shops, and clothing shops throughout our state.

Three-quarters of these grants have gone to minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, and those serving rural as well as low-income communities. We’re not just talking about equity, we are building it into the very fabric of all of our programs.

There’s nothing more foundational to an equitable society than getting our kids safely back into classrooms. Remote learning has exacerbated the gaps we have working so hard to close.

California for decades has seen racial and economic disparities in student achievement. Black, Latino and poor students lag behind their white, Asian and wealthier peers in math and reading proficiency. Early data shows this school year has brought significant learning loss, most acute in students who were already behind. — Ricardo Cano

Our kids are missing too many rites of passage: field trips, and proms, and graduation.

Among the youngest learners, thousands of 5-year-olds across the state did not enroll in kindergarten this year and are missing the vital skills kids learn in their first year like learning how to “do school” and the basics of literacy and math.— Elizabeth Aguilera

Some of the state’s students have literally gone missing from distance learning. The state as a whole has lost 155,000 students from its K-12 enrollment this year. — Ricardo Cano

Teachers pulling triple duty as counselors, curriculum developers, and tech specialists.

Parents desperate for reopening dates.

Look, Jen and I live this as parents of four young children. Helping them cope with the fatigue of what my youngest son calls “Zoom school.” The loneliness of missing their friends. Frustrated by emotions they don’t yet fully understand.

The Newsoms’ children attend a private school that has offered a combination of in-person and online instruction this year, while most public schools were online-only. — Laurel Rosenhall  

In December, was not that long ago, in December when COVID surged, many schools were contemplating an alarming decision – giving up on in-person instruction for the rest of the school year.

In the few short months since – working together with parents, teachers, and school leaders – we have turned the conversation from whether to reopen, to when

The deal signed by the governor Friday does not require schools to offer in-person instruction this spring. Some of the state’s largest districts, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, are still negotiating in-person returns with their teachers unions. A few districts like San Bernardino City Unified have said they will stay in distance learning for the entire 2020-21 school year. — Ricardo Cano

For what it’s worth, both the CSU and UC are signaling that classes will be primarily taught in-person this fall if enough of the state is vaccinated — Mikhail Zinshteyn

Every day, every single day, more schools are announcing reopening dates. In fact, almost 7,000 schools are open or plan to reopen by mid-April for in-person instruction. 7,000.

More local school districts have finalized dates to return to in-person instruction in recent weeks as case rates decline and vaccines become more available, mainly under hybrid models. But as of late February, we calculated that about three-fourths of the state’s elementary students remained in full-time distance learning. Read more about the state’s school-reopening disparities here. — Ricardo Cano

But California has 11,000 schools in 1,000 districts spread across 58 counties – all locally controlled. So we’re not gonna be satisfied until everybody is back in school.

Unclear what he would actually do to compel schools to reopen. Newsom and the Legislature passed a reopening plan that leaves the decision to local districts. — Laurel Rosenhall 

To achieve this, we’ve delivered three months’ worth of PPE to every school. We’ve directly enabled schools to provide routine COVID testing, especially for low-income students.

And starting last week, California promised that at least 10 percent of all of our vaccine allocation will go to teachers and school staff directly. In the first week alone, we have already administered more than 210,000 doses to educators, a pace more than double our goal.

Declining case rates and increasing vaccine availability for educators have arguably done more to jolt local school reopening discussions than the $2 billion in incentive funds. And what a difference a month makes: In early February, some large counties didn’t expect to begin vaccinating teachers until April. — Ricardo Cano

And just last week, we committed $6.6 billion, $6.6 billion, for learning loss, tutoring, mental health, and the ability to extend school days and the flexibility to extend the school year.

Mental health experts have for months defaulted to the word  “tsunami” in describing the predicted wave of mental health needs and suicidality, which many believe will last long after the pandemic itself is over. — Jocelyn Wiener

We can do this. The science is sound. We start with the early grades we build confidence, and build up from there.

Under Assembly Bill 86, the deal reached between the governor and legislative leaders, schools in the red tier would have to offer in-person instruction to elementary students and at least one full middle and high school grade by April 1 to get their full share of funds. Newsom’s rationale for adding one full older grade: “Once you dip your toe in, once you build a cohort confidently … then we will start to see a cadence of reopening across the spectrum.” — Ricardo Cano

Getting kids back to school, getting shots in arms, and getting the economy back on its feet. These are urgent priorities, but they’re not the totality of our efforts.

We entered this pandemic with a care economy suffering from decades and decades of underinvestment. A societal scourge that the First Partner has shined a light on: working women – particularly women of color – earning only a fraction of what their male counterparts earn. Widening gaps between haves and have-nots. 

California’s most acute preexisting condition remains income inequality.

The pandemic has both preyed on income inequality and exacerbated it. In fact, California’s recent economic stimulus package — including the $600 Golden State Stimulus payments — are made possible by unparalleled tax revenues from the soaring income growth and stock market gains that the richest Californians enjoyed this year. — Jackie Botts

So as we respond to this pandemic, we need to stay fixated on closing unacceptable disparities. That’s one of the fundamental reasons I ran for governor in the first place.

By any measure, we’ve made great strides.

Just consider this. We’ve rewarded working families by nearly tripling the earned income tax credit and increasing child care subsidies, adding two more weeks of paid family leave, as well as raising the minimum wage to $14, on its way to $15 an hour.

The expansion of the California Earned Income Tax Credit was Newsom’s crowning anti-poverty achievement in his first year as governor. Last year, mid-pandemic, lawmakers also extended it to undocumented immigrant workers. — Jackie Botts

Family child care providers won a much needed one-time stipend in the recent stimulus package but are still negotiating with the state over subsidized pay rates which are woefully low given the costs to care for kids and to run a day care business. — Elizabeth Aguilera

We’re providing first-ever health care subsidies for middle-class Californians so they can afford coverage. And we’re increasing student financial aid and public assistance. Making community college, this has gotten lost in all the conversations, making community college free for two years.

Newsom plugged two free years of community college in last year’s State of the State and as then, we’re here to say that the policy only applies to the one-third of students who attend community college full-time. Still, just under half of community college students get tuition waivers if they can’t afford to pay. — Mikhail Zinshteyn

Creating opportunity for all.

But I’m mindful that we aren’t truly addressing the needs of people in poverty unless we account for the biggest pressure most families face: that’s the issue of housing, in particular housing stability.

So we crafted the strongest eviction controls in the nation, protecting millions of renters from losing their homes in the midst of this pandemic. And provided a framework for billions of dollars in rental support for struggling landlords.

Neither of whom are really satisfied with the state government’s response, demonstrated during the battle over the state’s eviction moratorium. Renters want expanded protections for evictions to avoid lockouts for reasons other than non-payment of rent. Landlords won a small battle in the Legislature by pre-empting local measures that would have expanded past the state’s eviction moratorium (set for now at the end of June), but they have continued to push for a firm end of the moratorium so that, in some cases, they can get money flowing back in from their rental properties. — Nigel Duara

All while remaining laser focused on the most severe part of the housing crisis: homelessness. This is a crisis pre-dating the pandemic.

In January 2020 — by my math, roughly 300 years ago — Newsom made homelessness the central theme of his State of the State speech, insisting to the Legislature that it must be “at the top of our agenda.” Then COVID-19 arrived and that agenda was upended. — Ben Christopher

In response, we developed brand-new solutions – including two programs, promoted by the Biden administration as a model to the other 49 states.

Project Roomkey, launched in April, and it’s provided over 35,000 homeless Californians with safe shelter from COVID.

And Homekey, that was launched just in July, created more than 6,000 new permanent housing units during the pandemic, buying hotels and motels and converting them at a third of the cost of traditional supportive housing.

We did this cheaper and faster than homeless housing has ever been built in California history, literally rewriting the book on how to tackle homelessness.

And while we acted swiftly during this pandemic, we are mindful none of us are naive, we are mindful that these tent cities on our sidewalks and the encampments along our freeways they  simply remain unacceptable.

Our challenge moving forward is crystal clear: to continue our immediate progress while focusing on our longer-term goals, by the way many of those I laid out in last year’s State of the State.

Those long-term state goals concerning affordable housing look further and further away. While the pandemic did him no favors, the state’s affordable housing goals remain off track and unmet in its most populous areas, with no real way for Newsom to compel the construction of new, density housing. He loves to point out that “localism is determinative.” — Nigel Duara

Now, bringing the same spirit of innovation behind Project Roomkey and Homekey, we’re committing nearly $2 billion this year to create more homeless housing, addressing mental health at the same time as well as substance abuse issues, and ending homelessness one person at a time.

No one denies this is a huge challenge, but we know what it means to stare down big challenges.

In 2020, we simultaneously faced two once-in-a-generation crises when we combatted the worst wildfire season last summer in the middle of the pandemic

The fact is, the hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier, and not just here in California, but all across the globe. Let’s call it what it is: climate change. Just as we approached COVID, we are guided by science.

Climate change is amplifying California’s fire risk — drying fuels, increasing area burned and raising the risk of extreme autumn fire weather. Even California’s iconic ‘asbestos forests’ are no longer immune from fires as the fog that bathed them ebbs. — Rachel Becker

Just consider last summer’s heat dome on the West Coast of the United States, which led to world-record breaking temperatures here at home.

Newsom’s right. California sweltered through record breaking heat in August and September as searing temperatures shattered records worldwide. — Rachel Becker

And in just one 24-hour period last August, 12,000 lightning strikes sparked 560 wildfires, requiring heroic efforts by our firefighters and national guard, who landed helicopters into flames to save fellow Californians.

Intense fires so early in the season meant little aid from other Western states battling their own blazes. Thirty-three people died and nearly 10,500 buildings burned as fires scorched over 4.2 million acres — roughly 4% of California — during the 2020 fire season. — Rachel Becker

This year, we are budgeting more than $1 billion for fire prevention, including fuel breaks, forest health, and home hardening.

We forged a historic partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to radically ramp up forest management efforts.

This agreement sets a goal to reduce fuels on one million acres annually by 2025, but the state has fallen behind in its own efforts. — Julie Cart

We are reducing barriers on hundreds of fuel reduction projects and prescribed burns. Adding 30 new fire crews and pre-positioning assets, new C-130s, Blackhawk helicopters, and radar technology.

The state increasingly relies on expensive aviation and cutting-edge technology to fight fires. — Julie Cart

But historic wildfires are the symptom. Greenhouse gases they’re the cause. And to address them, we must confront the source of more than half the emissions in our state: and that’s transportation.

An audit recently lambasted California regulators for overstating cuts of greenhouse gases from clean-vehicle incentive programs. — Rachel Becker 

I was proud to sign a groundbreaking executive order just last year requiring all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California to be zero-emission by 2035.

The order won’t be stopping new gas-powered cars and trucks from being sold in California anytime soon. Instead, it directs the California Air Resources Board to phase out their sale, which will require the traditional regulatory process, including legal, economic and environmental analyses, as well as public comment and hearings.— Rachel Becker

And the car companies – led by Ford, GM, and Volvo and others– seized the opportunity to innovate, create jobs, and dominate the industry of the future. Proving yet again that protecting our planet, protecting it, and growing our economy aren’t conflicting goals – they’re one in the same.

Some automakers, including General Motors, sided with the Trump administration in trying to remove California’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. With President Joe Biden’s election, however, GM and other car companies abandoned the attack. Some companies also have pledged to sell only zero-emission cars by 2035 or sooner. — Rachel Becker 

There’s no doubt California is the pace setter of environmental policy, yet we are mindful of our responsibility to do even more. It’s really that restless spirit defines California.

One of the new things California is tackling is implementing new guidelines for reducing exposure to “forever chemicals” in nearly 200 water wells. — Rachel Becker

We know there’s no advancement without effort, no success of any type without sacrifice.

To paraphrase St. Francis, the patron saint of my hometown, now is the time to tell the world about our brighter future, and only if necessary, will we use words.

See, we know that our strength comes not from what we preach, but from what we do. From our people who get their hands dirty each and every day, who come home tired, to give their kids a better life.

When we set our minds to it, Californians can reach the stars.

Just a few weeks ago, a NASA rover appropriately named Perseverance landed safely on Mars, 293 million miles away. It was a breakthrough achievement made possible by the engineers and scientists at our very own Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

Led in part by the vision and drive of a Lebanese immigrant who was educated in California schools and rose to become the head of JPL.

By the risk-taking that’s in our DNA, by the dream to discover new frontiers, and by sheer force of will.

It was an achievement made possible by California.

And it tells you everything you need to know about who we are and what we can be.

But California isn’t the world’s best place by birthright – we have to earn it each and every day.

Our hopeful vision of our brighter future is the basis for the decisions we make today. We place faith over fear – optimism over pessimism. The power truly is in our hands.

This is our moment – to create the California we all want to live in, to extend the dream of prosperity, equity, and progress to all.

And to continue to lead the world into the future once more. 

Thank you, all of you, and take care, and good night.

And Newsom walks off to Wilco’s “California Stars,” his 2018 campaign theme song. – Ben Christopher

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