Gavin Newsom Proclaims California Socialist Paradise!
Gavin Newsom and friends in 2013 (Charlie Kaijo, Creative Commons license 2.0)

Newly sworn-in California Gov. Gavin Newsom cemented his credentials as a great big handsome policy nerd Thursday with a budget speech that lasted nearly two damn hours, laid out solid progressive budget goals, and yet also managed to win some praise from Republicans for taking a cautious approach to ramping up state funding of early childhood education and improving healthcare and housing. Let's have some Golden State budgetary nicetimes!

Newsom kicked off his budget speech with a warning that he was about to geek out on policy details:

"I, unlike the previous administration, may spend a little bit more on this than you want. Just warning you. Full disclosure. This is something I really enjoy," Newsom said.

O be still our fluttrin' wonky heart.

The really big news is that Newsom has a heck of a nice budget surplus to work with, as Politico California points out:

Newsom starts with perhaps the biggest fiscal advantage enjoyed by any California governor in recent history — a rainy-day reserve projected to grow to $15.3 billion and a surplus he now estimates at $21.4 billion — more than $6 billion higher than the Legislative Analyst's Office forecast in November. The Department of Finance said that's largely due to more revenues and fewer expenses than predicted in the current fiscal year, as well as unforeseen Medi-Cal savings.

This is of course impossible since Republicans keep telling us California is going broke giving illegals welfare and all the productive citizens have left for states with lower taxes. And yet, it appears to have happened. But instead of blowing the surplus on fancy programs all at once, Newsom instead aims for building a foundation for programs through initial investments in programs that will grow over time, like making all-day kindergarten available to all California kids, and providing public preschool to all low-income four-year-olds, with the aim of building a teacher pool and infrastructure that could later be expanded.

Whole bunch of goodies for families with young children, which he can no doubt promote with that video of his toddler son stealing the scene during his inaugural speech. Hey, look at this neat Quality Of Life stuff!

He devoted the opening policy section of his budget summary to early childhood, likely the first time a governor has done so.

He proposed nearly $2 billion in spending on kindergarten and child care facilities, as well as home visits and parental aid. But he also called for a $500 earned income tax credit bonus for families with children younger than 6, paid family leave up to six months and additional Cal Grant aid for parents attending college.

In addition, Newsom proposed several measures aimed at building more housing, including making housing more affordable, as well as creating a fund for safe drinking water, which has been a big problem in low-income, rural communities. Healthcare would get a boost with plans to reach the 7 percent of Californians who still don't have health insurance coverage, including subsidies for those who make too much to qualify for federal Obamacare subsidies, and expanding the state's Medicare alternative, MediCal, to cover undocumented folks aged 19 to 25 (the state already covers undocumented kids under 18). Get ready for Donald Trump to plotz.

To pay for those subsidies to higher-earning families, Newsom wants to reinstate the "individual mandate" for health insurance, for California at least. Congress eliminated the federal mandate as part of the 2017 Big Fat Tax Cut for Rich Fuckwads, causing spikes in premium rates as insurers anticipated covering older and sicker patients. Bringing back the mandate would also help stabilize premiums in the individual health insurance market.

Another nice big chunk of money will go to pay down/eliminate some debts and "accounting gimmicks" the state had previously used to make ends meet in leaner times, while still contributing to financial reserves. The goal is to keep spending at a higher but still moderate level so California could come through a moderate recession without having to make huge emergency cuts.

While his plan doesn't bake in massive program expansions now, it would require billions more in ongoing spending down the road to carry out his grand vision [...]

He said he laid out a strategy to accomplish these goals in three or more years, "but we're going to be sober and honest about how much we can do."

Newsom would also incrementally roll out a plan for savings accounts for young children (a beautiful class warfare idea Cory Booker has proposed at a national level). Start small at first, then build the program with later increases, and oh look at that, you quickly get a lot of parents saying they like this very much and pressuring legislators to keep it fully funded.

Here is a budget nerd being very happy about Newsom's approach:

California Budget and Policy Center Executive Director Chris Hoene said Newsom made a savvy move by focusing on finite commitments that could clear the way for sustained changes as the new governor's tenure unfolds.

"It's not as if all of his promises are going to be delivered in year one," Hoene said, noting that offering more early childhood services, for example, means building the "capacity to serve more children."

"Before you have universal kindergarten for 4-year-olds, you need to invest in the facilities and the staff and the infrastructure," Hoene said. "There's a trend of committing one time investments while the budget is in good shape, while doing some stage-setting for future investments."

Even a few Republicans said nice things about Newsom, praising him for focusing on scalable plans that can adjust to changes in California's economic fortunes. Newsom also plans to eventually propose changes to the state's tax code to reduce volatility in California's revenues. Newsom said he thought the state could do a far more efficient job of tapping revenues from the "service economy" all the kids are talking about.

Newsom said he's looking forward to working with the state legislature to fund priorities like his proposal for six months of paid leave for new parents, noting the lege would have to raise taxes to fund the expansion from the current six weeks of leave, but arguing that healthy families are worth investing in, because babbies do better all around when they can bond with their parents early in life.

"It's a no damn brainer," he said. "I'm hoping the Legislature feels the same because it's going to cost some money."

We like this guy a hell of a lot, but that could just be our inner policy geek getting all hot and bothered. Talk nerdy to us, big boy.

[Poltico California / Sacramento Bee / LAT / Image: Detail from photo by Charlie Kaijo, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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