State of the State Address
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by
California Governor Gavin Newsom
February 19, 2020
Thank you, Madame Lieutenant Governor. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for welcoming Jen and me to your house.
Madame Pro Tem, Members of this Legislature, fellow Californians.
Thank you once again for the privilege of this podium.
Traditionally, this is when Governors stand before you and report, with practiced grandiosity, that the “state of our state is strong and getting stronger.”
And, largely, that is still true.
And yes, Eleni, proudly, we still are America’s coming attraction.
Newsom was introduced by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a former U.S. ambassador.
By any standard measure, by nearly every recognizable metric, the State of California is not just thriving but, in many instances, leading the country, inventing the future, and inspiring the nation.
We remain the fifth-largest economy in the world — enjoying 118 consecutive months of net job growth, some 3.4 million jobs created since the Great Recession and nearly 4 million small businesses call California their home.
More than half of all U.S. venture capital still flows to California companies.
We’ve averaged 3.8 percent GDP growth over five years — and I say this respectfully, compared that to 2.5 percent national growth. California is outperforming!
Yes, I say that the state today is an enterprising, modernizing, pluralizing, unionizing, nation-state of opportunity.
Clearly a “but” is on the way. But Newsom’s leading with the positives. It’s a nod to tradition, an appeal to state pride and — perhaps most importantly — a recognition that he’s giving fodder to President Trump and other critics on the right who point to California as an example of liberal mismanagement and excess. — Ben Christopher
Just consider this fact: 1 in 7 new jobs created by the U.S. economy since 2010 has been created right here in California.
So when you hear the boasts, bleats, and tweets of Washington politicians tripping over themselves to take credit for the economy, remember the real VIPs of America’s GDP — the millions of California workers, investors and entrepreneurs who are actually producing their own California Dreams.
We’ve built a record reserve, including the largest rainy-day fund in state history. We’ve achieved the highest credit rating in nearly two decades.
And we’ve disappeared the infamous wall of debt, following the prudent principle of never spending more than we we take in.
California is the rocket fuel powering America’s resurgence, that — let me be clear — began under the leadership of President Barack Obama.
Standing ovation in the Assembly chamber after Newsom delivered this line to a Legislature that is three-quarters Democrats. — Laurel Rosenhall
Even so, California never stands still and never rests on its laurels.
Last year, we worked in historic partnership to achieve historic progress.
Together, we addressed some of our most stubborn issues and built brighter futures for millions of Californians.
Those achievements cannot be fully appreciated as line items in a budget or bill numbers across a desk.
We see it in the faces of dreamers and doers across our remarkable state.
In the patients who have new, affordable access to primary care, provided by doctors who look like them, know their culture, speak their language, and understand their story.
As a result of Newsom’s push, this is the first year young undocumented adults, 18-25, have access to Medi-Cal, a benefit the governor extended in last year’s budget. Kids without legal status gained access to the health care program for low-income residents under the previous governor. Newsom would like to go even further. His latest budget proposal includes funding to extend Medi-Cal to qualified seniors — after a bill to extend coverage was pulled by the author last session. But all of this coverage won’t be easy. The physician shortage in California is growing, and experts say loan forgiveness and scholarships for doctors are not enough to fill the gap. — Elizabeth Aguilera
In the first responders — putting badges on uniforms and their lives on the line — knowing that now California has the best and best-resourced wildfire programs.
And we pay for it. The state allocated more than $1 billion last year for amped up wildfire programs and Newsom’s current budget proposal sets aside more than $90 million to employ technology against fires and would add 677 new positions. —Julie Cart
In the working parent with more money in her pocket, thanks to expanded paid family leave, a thousand dollar family tax credit and lower costs due to tax-free diapers and tampons.
Last year, Newsom’s signature anti-poverty policy was to more than double the California Earned Income Tax Credit, the state’s tax refund for low-income working families, including a $1,000 boost for households with children under 6. But immigrant advocates and some lawmakers, who were disappointed the expansion didn’t extend to undocumented workers who file taxes, will continue pushing for that. — Jackie Botts
In the high school student planning a more promising future with two free years of community college.
California’s “free college” program still excludes the two-thirds of community college students who attend part-time. Nevertheless, at least one lawmaker is already trying to expand it to cover four-year CSU degrees for those who are currently eligible. — Felicia Mello
This, incidentally, is also a short list of some of the governor’s campaign promises from 2018. You can get the full progress report here. — Ben Christopher
And the college athletes, the college athletes will finally have the opportunity to be justly compensated for their own name, image, and likeness.
One bill, you change the rules!
A shout-out here to legislation that prevents California universities from penalizing athletes who seek paid endorsement deals. After at least 10 other states followed California’s lead and began considering similar laws, the NCAA said it will change longstanding policy to allow for some form of athlete compensation. — Felicia Mello
In the Central Valley finally getting the economic attention it deserves.
And those economic shortfalls have domino effects. Income inequality plays a role in teen birth rates. Kern, Fresno and Tulare Counties have all battled high teen birth rates for years. While those numbers are declining, rates in the Central Valley are still some of the highest statewide. — Elizabeth Castillo
This is also a nod to Newsom’s Regions Rise Together initiative to pump investment, philanthropy and state dollars into revitalizing inland California. Almost 70% of job growth during the economic recovery has been from the coastal areas around Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area. — Jackie Botts
In the communities finally getting safe and clean drinking water and neighborhoods breathing a little easier, thanks to California’s landmark partnership with leading automakers.
The governor has emphasized modernizing and expanding access to clean water, but that “partnership” with automakers to reduce tailpipe emissions is not a sure thing. — Julie Cart
And, if voters approve it, we may soon see more school buildings newly free of lead and toxic mold, thanks to a bipartisan state school bond.
The governor is referring to “the new” Proposition 13, a massive $15 billion state school bond on the March 3 ballot. Newsom’s office helped craft the measure, which would distribute funding to high-needs districts first. You can read more about Proposition 13 here. — Ricardo Cano
In city after city, household after household, the hard work of this legislature is making dreams more real for more Californians than ever before.
When Justice Brandeis wrote in 1932 that “a single courageous state may…serve as a laboratory” of democracy, he could easily have been referencing California today.
Because, unlike the Washington plutocracy, California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope.
The California Dream is for all.
And to that end, just think about this — there are 1.6 million fewer Californians living in poverty today than in 2011. That’s one quarter of the nation’s decrease, in just this state alone.
These stats come from the Census Bureau’s alternative poverty measure that takes into account cost of living in each state. And it’s true that California has made enviable progress, reducing poverty by about 23% since 2011 compared to the rest of the country’s 13% drop. Even so, California still has the nation’s highest poverty rate when accounting for cost of living, with more than 18% living below the line in 2018. — Jackie Botts
But no amount of progress can camouflage the most pernicious crisis in our midst, the ultimate manifestation of poverty: homelessness.
That’s why I’m devoting today’s remarks to this crisis.
The bulk of Newsom’s speech today addresses the state’s homelessness woes. It’s an indication of just how big a political liability the crisis has become for the governor, as recent polling shows voters for the first time identify homelessness as the number one issue confronting the state. — Matt Levin
Newsom is taking a risk in pinning the focus of this sophomore-year speech on homelessness. Yes, it’s a huge concern for Californians. But it’s also really hard to fix, so he’s putting himself out there with some promises that he may not, in the end, achieve. — Laurel Rosenhall
Let’s call it what it is, a disgrace, that the richest state in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is failing to properly house, heal, and humanely treat so many of its own people.
Every day, the California Dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families, children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed.
Military veterans who wore the uniform of our country in a foreign land, abandoned here at home.
Veteran homelessness and family homelessness have actually been on the decline in California over the last decade or so, primarily due to an Obama-era initiative that prioritized permanent supportive housing for those populations. — Matt Levin
LGBTQ youth fleeing abuse and rejection from their families and communities.
No specific mention of students here, but homelessness and the housing crisis have become major issues on California college campuses, with some surveys finding as many as 1 in 5 community college students have been homeless in the past year. A bill to allow those students to camp overnight in campus parking lots stalled last session. University of California Santa Cruz teaching assistants are currently on strike, saying their stipends don’t pay enough for them to afford rent. — Felicia Mello
Faces of despair. Failed by our country’s leaders and our nation’s institutions.
As Californians, we pride ourselves on our unwavering sense of compassion and justice for humankind — but there’s nothing compassionate about allowing fellow Californians to live on the streets, huddled in cars or makeshift encampments.
And there’s nothing just about sidewalks and street corners that aren’t safe and clean for everybody.
A meaningful pivot. The homelessness debate often pits those who call for a compassionate expansion of services against those who argue for zero tolerance of the nuisance of public camping. Newsom’s reaching out to both sides here. — Ben Christopher
The problem has persisted for decades — caused by massive failures in our mental health system and disinvestment in our social safety net — exacerbated by widening income inequality and California’s housing shortage.
The hard truth is we ignored the problem.
We turned away when it wasn’t our sister, our brother, our neighbor, our friend.
And when it was a loved one, help wasn’t there.
Most of us experienced homelessness as a pang of guilt, not a call to action.
Back in 2005, when we started our point-in-time counts, there were over 188,000 homeless people in California — 35,000 more than we have today. Even at that peak, the state didn’t treat it with the urgency required.
Let’s be clear: homelessness data is unreliable. The numbers Newsom cites here — a result of volunteer-led “one night counts” — significantly undercounted those homeless in California one night in late January. More importantly, they vastly underestimate how many people fall into homelessness over the course of a year. — Matt Levin
It became normalized.
Concentrated in skid rows and tent cities in big urban centers.
Now it’s no longer isolated.
In fact, some of the most troubling increases have occurred in rural areas, in small towns, and remote parts of our state.
No place is immune.
No person untouched.
A recent USC poll found that nearly 40% of likely California voters said they feared a family member or they themselves could become homeless. — Matt Levin
And too often no one wants to take responsibility.
I’ve even heard local officials proclaim in public: it’s not my problem.
Servants of the public too busy pointing fingers to step up and help? That’s shameful.
After all, every homeless Californian, living on a boulevard of broken dreams, is a casualty of institutional failures — a person who’s fallen through every possible hole in the safety net.
“Boulevard of broken dreams”…the governor borrows a snippet of political rhetoric from Green Day. — Matt Levin
Homelessness impacts everyone, but not equally. Some communities have been hit much harder.
Urban renewal and gentrification broke up communities of color and throttled their abilities to move into the middle class.
These are systemic issues rooted in poverty and racial discrimination.
Black Californians comprise 8 percent of L.A. County’s population — but 42% of its homeless.
This is true across the state too. While less than 7% of Californians identify as black or African American, they make up 40% of the state’s homeless. Experts say this is a direct result of institutional and structural racism in education, criminal justice, housing, health care, and employment. Newsom’s plan doesn’t quite get at how to address those root causes. — Elizabeth Aguilera
A recent poll found that nearly half of Latinos in the state are afraid that they or a family member could become homeless.
The State of California can no longer treat homelessness and housing insecurity as someone else’s problem, buried below other priorities that are easier to win or better suited for soundbites.
This strikes me as a dig not only at prior governors but also at local government leaders whose help Newsom needs to achieve his goals. The tone reflects growing tension between the state and cities — an emerging theme in Newsom’s administration — but seems to contradict his call for collaboration and cooperation. — Laurel Rosenhall
It is our responsibility.
And it must be at the top of our agenda.
Another standing O inside the Capitol for this line. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told us in December that housing and homelessness were at the top of the agenda for his house in 2020. — Laurel Rosenhall
This crisis was not created overnight and it’s not gonna be solved overnight — or even in one year.
But as a State, we must do everything we can to ensure no Californian is homeless.
We’ve got to replace California’s scattershot approach with a more focused, crisis-level response.
To meet this moment with the commitment it demands, we’re committed to advancing a new framework.
We will reduce street homelessness quickly and humanely through emergency actions.
We will be laser-focused on getting the mentally ill out of tents and into treatment.
We will provide stable funding to get sustainable results.
We will tackle the underproduction of affordable housing in California.
And we will do all of this with real accountability and consequences.
First, we’ve started with emergency actions to do everything we can now, to make an immediate, tangible impact.
After decades of neglect and inadequate responses, we are putting our entire state government on notice to respond with urgency.
Last month, I issued an Executive Order deploying emergency housing trailers and services for homeless families and seniors.
The first trailers have been deployed to Oakland and L.A. County.
The next, I’m pleased to announce today, are headed to Santa Clara, Riverside, Contra Costa, and Sonoma Counties, as well as the City of Stockton.
That same Executive Order builds on our work last year to identify all excess state land.
Today, we are making 286 state properties — vacant lots, fairgrounds, armories and other state buildings — available to be used by local governments, for free, for homelessness solutions.
This is news: The state has finalized its list of available vacant state land for use as emergency shelters for the homeless, part of an executive order Newsom issued in January. Out of a list of more than 1,000 potential sites, the governor’s office selected only about a quarter — and local leaders have already expressed concern about staffing and servicing the new shelters in their backyards. — Nigel Duara
Lease templates ready to go—and we’re ready for partnership. Let’s move on those, today!
We have also directed Caltrans to make better use of other unoccupied spaces to get homeless housing up as fast as possible.
We have great examples under development in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
We’re able to move faster than ever before on these leases and land because we established a Strike Team across many agencies, including Health & Human Services, Caltrans, and the CHP — all with one goal: to break through bureaucratic barriers.
As the state moves fast, we must also move together with cities and counties who are critical allies in addressing this emergency.
Two months ago, we issued a 100-day challenge to our local partners: to focus on one part of their homeless population and address it with intentionality.
Dozens of communities across our state are stepping up.
It’s unclear how many communities have accepted the 100-day challenge, but Sacramento is one. Mayor Darrell Steinber is co-chair of the governor’s homelessness task force. “We’re getting up the first major efficiency home project as a triage center for people who are unsheltered and homeless,” Steinberg said last week. — Nigel Duara
But as we continue with these emergency actions, we must eliminate roadblocks to housing and shelter.
Last year, because of your leadership, I was very proud to sign two important bills.
One streamlined the permitting process for navigation centers statewide.
The second exempted all shelters and homeless housing from environmental review in Los Angeles.
Red flag here: Eliminating roadblocks and streamlining development are code words for suspending some of California’s environmental protections. That sets up an awkward moment for environmental groups and some in the Legislature who fear establishing damaging precedents but also don’t relish opposing the governor on a signature initiative. — Julie Cart
This year, I hope that we can expand that law and extend it to all homeless shelters and supportive housing statewide.
Neighborhood groups often sue under the California Environmental Quality Act to stop new homeless shelters from being built nearby. Homeowners and business groups in San Francisco unsuccessfully attempted to use CEQA to block a homeless shelter near the waterfront. — Matt Levin
We need more housing, not more delays.
We are also pushing for new models of homeless housing — like hotel/motel conversions and pre-fab and tiny homes — and as we do, we’ll cut the red tape to get to “yes” on these innovative approaches.
Hotel/motel conversions and “tiny homes” are significantly cheaper than building new permanent housing, which can cost upwards of $500,000 per unit in pricier parts of the state. — Matt Levin
While we take emergency measures to increase shelter and services, we must also comprehensively address the hardest part of this problem.
The chronically homeless — those out on the streets for more than a year, with complex behavioral health needs.
For centuries, the default “treatment” was confinement in asylums, where people deteriorated out of sight.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, our nation began the trend toward “deinstitutionalization.”
It was not a single policy, it was a series of policies.
Outrage over conditions in institutions — as well as the creation of new medications like thorazine and lithium — helped treat the mentally ill, and it sparked a movement to treat people in their communities, rather than locking them away.
California passed the Short-Doyle Act in 1957 to fund community mental health services.
The federal government, too, pursued this worthy goal.
President Kennedy envisioned a system in which, in his words, “the reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation will be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern.”
State mental hospitals were closed. But the promise of community mental health was never fully realized.
States were burdened with the responsibility but provided little in the way of support.
Laws were changed that made it harder to compel mental health treatment. Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in 1967, designed to end the inappropriate lifetime commitment of people with mental illness.
The law imposed strict timelines for involuntary confinement and limited involuntary holds to those deemed a danger to themselves or others, or gravely disabled. An audit of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act is expected this spring. — Jocelyn Wiener
And critically, in 1975, a U.S. Supreme Court decision, O’Connor v. Donaldson, ruled that “mental illness alone cannot justify a state locking a person up against his will.”
All of these changes, coincided with safety net cuts, block grants, and tightened eligibility standards of the 80’s and 90’s, along with wholesale razing of skid rows and SROs — which for so many was the only housing option.
The cumulative impact made county jails the de facto mental health institutions.
Close to a third of inmates in California’s jails have a documented mental illness, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The number of people deemed incompetent to stand trial after their arrest jumped 60% in five years. — Jocelyn Wiener
Patients and their families were left with inadequate options to get the mental health care they needed.
In a politically polarized world, liberals and conservatives blame one another for these failures.
Historically speaking, both are right.
It’s time to stop pointing fingers and join hands in a transformational solution.
This year, we have proposed CalAIM. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime reform of our Medi-Cal system, based on the obvious, but long-ignored principle, that physical health and brain health are inextricably linked.
This is part of Newsom’s attempt to transform the state’s Medicaid program for poorer patients, known as Medi-Cal, into one that boosts preventive health care. The goal: to bring down costs, especially among vulnerable populations such as people who are homeless. — Ana B. Ibarra
After all, 10 million Californians, 10 million Californians — 1 in 4 — suffer from some type of behavioral health condition. It’s not a narrow issue, nor a new one.
For the second year in a row, Californians have listed access to mental health care as a top health concern, according to a poll released last week by the California Health Care Foundation. More than half of those who responded said their communities lacked mental health providers. — Jocelyn Wiener
The truth is that our healthcare system has been designed to treat some of our parts, not the sum of our parts. That must change.
This landmark proposal calls for leveraging Medi-Cal as a tool to help California’s most vulnerable residents: the homeless, our children, and people cycling in and out of the criminal justice system.
It’s about integrating care. Targeting social determinants of health and expanding our Whole Person Care pilots statewide.
Health care and housing can no longer be divorced. After all, what’s more fundamental to a person’s well-being than a roof over their head?
Doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics.
That’s the aim of CalAIM, transforming Medi-Cal as we know it, and we backed it up with a $695 million budget request to make this real.
Several critical federal waivers that allow California to operate Medi-Cal in a specific way are set to expire this year. The state will need new waivers to transform the program under CalAIM. The hitch: those waivers will require approval from the Trump administration. And that could make some of the state’s biggest goals difficult, or impossible. — Elizabeth Aguilera
Of course, the effectiveness of all of this relies and hinges on an individual being capable of accepting help, to get off the streets and into treatment in the first place.
Some, tragically, are not.
That’s why we need better legal tools, ones that allow local governments, health providers, and law enforcement to more effectively help people access treatment they need.
California’s behavioral health laws may have been ahead of their time, but today, call out for reform.
We must tailor these policies to reflect the realities of street homelessness today, which is so different than it was 50 or even 15 years ago when these laws were enacted.
And while we made progress on limited and general conservatorships last year, further improvements are warranted.
All within the bounds of deep respect for civil liberties and personal freedoms — but with an equal emphasis on helping people into the life-saving treatment that they need at the precise moment they need it.
Look — clearly, it’s time to respond to the concerns of experts who argue that thresholds for conservatorships are too high and need to be revisited.
Calls to change the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act — especially the definition of “grave disability” — have intensified in recent years, although the controversy is decades old. Families say they are desperate to help loved ones who don’t recognize the need for mental health treatment. Disability rights advocates worry about the implications of compelling treatment. — Jocelyn Wiener
Take Laura’s Law, which allows loved ones and service providers to ask courts to compel those who need treatment into community-based outpatient care.
The problem is, it’s too hard to use.
We need to remove some of the conditions imposed on counties trying to implement the law, so they can expand who benefits.
And with Housing Conservatorships, we need to authorize counties throughout the state to establish these programs, like the one recently developed in San Francisco.
That said, we know that the most urgent issue is not the legal inability to conserve people but the unavailability of housing and care for those who most need it.
I recognize policy is an empty promise without creating more placements.
One clear opportunity to do this is by reforming Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act.
When voters passed Proposition 63 in November 2004, they imposed an additional 1% tax on millionaires in the state, with the money intended to expand county mental health offerings. Critics say some counties have not spent all that money, or spent it for the wrong things. But counties are also limited by certain rules. — Jocelyn Wiener
As written, its resources too often don’t reach the people who need it the most.
We’re not proposing changing the funding formula for how much each county gets.
Rather, reform must focus funding on street homeless, at-risk and foster youth, and those involved in the criminal justice system.
We need to expand the kinds of services it can pay for, specifically addiction treatment; we need to stop tolerating open drug use on our streets.
Some in county mental health are wary of broadening what the Mental Health Services Act can pay for, fearing it will divert money away from mental health treatment to focus on homelessness more generally. — Jocelyn Wiener
Conservatives and some law enforcement officials have blamed Proposition 47, a 2014 initiative pushed by then Gov. Jerry Brown that reduced punishments for certain drug offenses, for the state’s rising homeless population. No research as far as I know has drawn that causal link. — Matt Levin
Additionally, we should compel counties to spend more of what they’ve got by lowering the 33 percent reserve threshold they’re allowed to hold back.
Get this, this is interesting — even with the current threshold, 40 of our 58 counties are above that line.
That is over $160 million unspent that could get people get off the streets and into treatment.
My message is this: spend your mental health dollars by June 30th, or we’ll make sure those dollars get spent for you. That’s $160 million today. We’ve got to get serious about this stuff.
Standing ovation and some hoots and hollers of approval from legislators in response to this line. Let’s see if they keep up that enthusiasm over the next few months, as their local governments start pushing back, which seems likely. — Laurel Rosenhall
Look, you guys get it. It’s about accountability. Matching resources to results.
For too long, there were no requirements for progress — it was always voluntary.
I want to thank my Council of Homelessness Advisors for bringing consequences to the forefront of the discussion.
This task force called for a “legally enforceable mandate” by which cities and counties could be sued for not making significant progress on their homeless population. Looks like Newsom is stopping short of embracing that proposal. — Matt Levin
It’s time to match our big-hearted empathy with tight-fisted accountability.
In the past two years, $1.5 billion has been allocated to help local governments solve homelessness.
This includes $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid we recently approved.
Up until now, state aid has been block granted to local governments by formula.
Spending decisions have been relatively unrestricted and locally driven. But the problem has gotten worse.
The results speak for themselves.
This moment, it cries out for a new approach.
In the budget I just submitted, I proposed a new California Access to Housing Fund, and, with it, a whole new way of investing in homeless solutions.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office expressed some deep concerns over this $750 million proposal, as it bypasses local governments and creates a different system where nonprofits could direct homelessness spending in a given area. Its analysis said the governor’s homelessness proposals “fall short of articulating a clear strategy”— which is about as harsh as the LAO gets. — Matt Levin
We have a clear purpose for this Fund: paying for what works.
Gap financing for innovative housing models like hotel/motel conversions and securing vacant units wherever we can find them.
Stabilizing and expanding board and care homes.
The crisis in board and care home closures is well-known, although data is sparse. The homes are rarely viewed as the ideal housing model for low-income people with mental illness and other disabilities — but they are housing, and certainly better than jail or the streets, which are viewed as likely alternatives. — Jocelyn Wiener
And preventing homelessness in the first place through rent subsidies and rapid rehousing to help people one job loss, one illness, away from homelessness.
With this nation’s first statewide housing fund, we can braid together state and philanthropic dollars, as well as health care, mental health, and social services — paying for housing, not overhead, by capping the administrative costs at 10%.
Nimble and flexible to evolve from best practices to next practices.
With deep regional coordination.
And clear metrics.
Number of new leases signed.
Number of new housing units converted or built.
Number of people stabilized with rent subsidies.
Number of people moved off the streets.
So to get us started, I’m asking this Legislature to invest an essential and unprecedented $750 million dollars into this fund.
Based on the severity of the crisis, we need early legislative action to set up the legal authorities to enter into contracts with service providers now — not waiting until months from now — because we don’t have months.
Will be interesting to see if the Legislature responds with the urgency Newsom is calling for on this one. Things in the Capitol generally don’t make headway without a looming deadline. For the budget, the deadline is mid-June. For policy bills, it’s the end of August. — Laurel Rosenhall
The public has lost patience, I know you have lost patience, I’ve lost patience.
To reverse decades of neglect, and turn around a crisis this deep-rooted, we need more than one-time funding.
We need significant sustainable revenue. It’s the truth! I know this is always the toughest thing.
So in the coming months, I pledge to work closely with you to identify this ongoing revenue to provide the safer, cleaner streets our communities deserve.
This pledge for “ongoing” revenue is a departure for Newsom, who has emulated former Gov. Jerry Brown in his preference for one-time funding and avoiding future obligations on the state budget. But homelessness activists, who have long clamored for reliable funds — will be elated by this announcement. — Matt Levin
To be clear, he’s talking about raising taxes, which sets up what is likely to be one of the biggest legislative battles of the year. State legislators (almost exclusively Democrats) raised the gas tax in 2017, and one senator was recalled for it. A new election is coming, so lawmakers may not be in a tax-hiking mood. — Ben Christopher
It’s time to muster the political will to meet this moment.
The people of California are demanding bold, permanent solutions.
Anything less won’t get the job done.
In order to get the job done, we’ve gotta match this new money with a new legal obligation to address this crisis head-on.
Requiring that any new funding isn’t replacing existing spending but creating new solutions.
Some have recommended a legal “Right to Shelter.”
I know it’s a provocative idea which forced the State to explore the limits of what local governments can be compelled to do.
But right now, our imperative must be bringing governments together as working partners, not sparring partners in a court of law.
So instead we are proposing strict accountability, comprehensive audits and a “do-it-or-lose-it” policy to hold local governments responsible for results.
Take action or you’re gonna lose the new funding.
Yep, Newsom is rejecting the signature proposal of his task force — the legally enforcable mandate for cities and counties to act — and instead tying new homelessness funding to meeting certain benchmarks. — Matt Levin
In order to track progress, we’re committed to establishing a unified homelessness data system to capture accurate, local information.
The state doesn’t have an accurate accounting for the number of shelter beds available statewide. That would probably be a good place to start. — Matt Levin
Because you all know this, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
One thing the state shockingly doesn’t measure — how much it spends on homelessness. Ask the administration how much the state spends overall on the issue, and you’ll get lots of lip service about new money but no overall accounting. Assemblyman David Chiu, Democrat from San Francisco, has a bill that tries to address this. — Matt Levin
It’s time for the failed policy of “not my problem” to be replaced with one of shared responsibility across every sector and every community.
Look: not one city, not one county, not even one state can shoulder this responsibility alone. This is a national crisis.
Federal decision-making contributed to this moment and our federal government has an obligation to match its rhetoric with specific, constructive, and deliverable results.
California has — I’ll repeat that — California has and will continue to extend its hand of partnership to Washington, seeking to jointly address this issue.
Newsom’s war with the Trump administration over this issue stands in contrast to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s overtures to federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Garcetti has received a great deal of grief from the progressive left over this approach, which so far has produced … you guessed it … another task force. — Matt Levin
Honestly, this partnership should be a given.
But empty words and symbolic gestures won’t mask a 15% across-the-board cut to HUD’s budget.
In his 2020 budget proposal, President Trump proposed to cut $8.6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program, which gives cities money for affordable housing and other community needs. If approved by Congress, this would deliver a blow to California’s affordable housing strategy. — Jackie Botts
I’m old enough, many of you are in this room as well, I’m old enough to remember when HUD was in the housing business. And I’m hopeful, one day, they will be again.
After all, homelessness isn’t a blue or a red issue. It’s an everyone issue — a blight on the soul of America.
Of course, the fundamental building block of California’s solution has to be more housing.
A comprehensive response to our collective failure to build enough.
We don’t build housing for people at all income levels, and as a consequence we worsen the homeless crisis.
It’s a vicious cycle and we own it.
Newsom set a goal of 3.5 million new homes by 2025 — that’s 500,000 homes per year. He fell well short of that goal in 2019; preliminary data indicates California permitted only 110,000 homes his first year in office. That’s actually lower than 2018. — Matt Levin
And the only sustainable way out of it is to massively increase housing production.
Interesting to see lawmakers stand and applaud this line weeks after the state Senate killed a bill to… massively increase housing production. — Laurel Rosenhall
Let’s match our courage on homelessness with courage on housing supply.
Look, last year, we made a new, historic investment — about $1.75 billion dollars to boost production — as part of a $7 billion dollars you all approved for affordable housing.
We secured new judicial penalties against cities that don’t plan and zone and do their fair share of housing.
We protected tenants like never before — finally outlawing discrimination against people with housing vouchers, we created a permanent fund to provide legal assistance to at-risk tenants, and historially, we worked together to crack down on rent spikes and unjust evictions, passing the nation’s strongest statewide renter protections. That was a big deal, folks. That was a big deal.
These are probably Newsom’s most high-profile legislative accomplishments on housing, and they’re all on the tenant protection side. The anti-rent-gouging law now in effect, which curbs annual rent increases at 5% plus inflation, was rescued by Newsom when teetering in the state Legislature last year. — Matt Levin
And thanks to your leadership, last year, I was privileged to sign 18 bills to boost housing production.
But time and time again, bigger, bolder reform hasn’t happened—in part, legitimately, in part because of some concerns that are not make-believe.
Many of our lowest-income residents understandably worry about being pushed out of their own communities because of gentrification.
Middle-class homeowners worry that their single-family home could lose its value — a scary prospect given a house is often a family’s biggest asset.
These real concerns should not be brushed aside.
At the same time, we also know the status quo is simply unacceptable — we’re not building enough housing.
Look, I get cities need to meet their housing goals in a way that matches their community, but doing nothing is no longer an option. It can’t be.
As a former mayor, look. I respect local control but not at the cost of creating a two California class system.
Not at the cost of imperiling the California Dream, and that’s what we’re doing. It cannot be the cost, and that’s what’s happening. We have to wake up to this reality. We have to step up our game.
We must grow our communities so people can live, work, and thrive — spending more time with their family, less in traffic.
This means a commitment — right now, this year — to major reform that will eliminate red tape, and delays for building critically needed housing – like affordable, multifamily homes — especially near transit and downtowns.
The idea of clustering housing near transit is not a new one, but it’s well-supported among environmentalists and others who say that proximity will reduce “vehicle miles traveled” —a critical metric to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. — Julie Cart
I am committed to working with leaders in both the Senate and Assembly to craft and pass needed reforms.
Our objectives are clear: increase density in a way that promotes equity, affordability, and inclusion; to increase certainty that “units planned” become “units built” in a way that respects environmental and labor protections; and to hold local governments accountable for both of these pillars — more density and more certainty.
The subtext here is SB 50, a controversial housing production measure that stripped cities of their local zoning powers in an attempt to allow more apartment buildings around transit and in single-family-only neighborhoods. Newsom was heavily criticized by pro-production groups for not doing enough to save the bill, which died in the state Senate last month. — Matt Levin
The fact that the governor now seems to be offering a full-throated endorsement of that dead bill probably won’t allay those criticisms. — Ben Christopher
Yeup. Also notable that there’s no specifics here…again…on what a new housing production bill should look like. — Matt Levin
It’s time for California to say yes to housing. We can no longer wait.
So this is the challenge before us and those are tough choices, but we’ve gotta make them.
Overcoming adversity and tackling intractable problems are as ingrained in California’s character as our sun-kissed coast and our bread-basket valley.
With homelessness, I know it can be done because I’ve seen successes along the way.
15 years ago, when I was Mayor of San Francisco, in the face of long odds and stiff opposition, we established Project Homeless Connect to bring local government services directly to people. It has been wildly successful and adopted in 250 cities.
Newsom’s approach to homelessness in San Francisco, dubbed “care not cash,” replaced cash assistance to people experiencing homelessness with housing vouchers and other services. Homelessness advocates weren’t big fans. — Matt Levin
Last year, I went back to Homeless Connect and spoke with a man named Richard Oliva.
Four years ago, Richard was homeless, drug addicted and seeking medical help, at one of Connect’s neighborhood fairs.
Thanks to this program, Richard got clean, obtained disability support and ultimately moved into subsidized permanent housing.
This time, he was back — as a volunteer.
For three years now, he has been passing out free reading glasses to people in need.
While I was there, Richard hugged me with tears in his eyes and said, “thanks to this program, I have a home of my own.”
Richard’s story reminds us there are no lost causes in our California community.
It’s an enduring California value that every Californian has value.
So when critics tell you homelessness can’t be solved, introduce them to Richard, and the thousands of others that are a living testament.
I don’t think homelessness can be solved.
I know homelessness can be solved.
This is our cause. This is our calling.
Let’s all rise to the challenge and make California stand as an exemplar of what true courage and compassion can achieve.
Let’s get to work.