California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his annual State of the State address Tuesday evening, touting his administration’s pandemic response and highlighting his push to get unhoused people into homes and shelters.
Newsom gave his speech in front of lawmakers and reporters for the first time since 2020, when he stood in the Assembly chambers just weeks before the start of the pandemic. Last year he gave his address from an empty Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where the state was holding one of its largest mass vaccination sites.
In his 2020 address, Newsom held up homelessness as his top issue heading into the year. In 2021, it was the pandemic.
This year the governor spoke extensively about both, as well as climate change, education, the economy and the state of democracy. He also hinted at giving money back to residents who’ve paid for record-breaking gas prices.
“The California way means rejecting old binaries and finding new solutions to big problems,” Newsom said.
Still, despite applauding his administration’s achievements, getting that message through to voters will prove important this year as he runs for reelection while his approval rating is below 50%.
A recent UC Berkeley poll showed only 47% of Californians approve of Newsom’s job performance, with 66% saying he is doing a poor job on homelessness — up double digits from two years prior.
Here are some excerpts from his address:
On California’s efforts during the pandemic, and where the state is headed
Our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives. Our mask mandates saved lives. The choices you made, saved lives. California experienced far lower COVID death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio. Fewer than Florida — 35%, to be exact.
But even with three quarters of Californians being fully vaccinated, we are mindful that we cannot let our guard down. That's why last month, we put out our SMARTER Plan — the nation’s first blueprint to stay a step ahead of future variants, and seasonal surges.
On homelessness across the state
There’s another crisis we're still tackling. That's the crisis of homelessness, which has worsened over the last decade, not only here in California, but across the nation.
Just a few years ago, California lacked any comprehensive strategy. No accountability, and no meaningful state resources to solve the problem. But that’s all changed. In just three years, we not only have a comprehensive plan, we also are requiring new accountability, and providing unprecedented investments for cities and counties on the front lines.
And while we moved a record 58,000 people off the streets since the beginning of the pandemic, we recognize we have more to do — particularly to address what’s happening on our sidewalks, reaching people who need help the most. Those with schizophrenia spectrum and psychosis disorders, many self-medicating with drugs or alcohol addictions. That’s precisely what our encampment resolution grants, and our new Care Court, seek to address. Getting people off the streets, out of tents and into housing and treatment is essential to making our streets safe for everyone.
On the state’s rising gas prices
The California way means rejecting old binaries and finding new solutions to big problems. Take climate policy, for example. California has no peers. For years, we’ve set the rules, and others have followed. But over time, we’ve learned we can’t solve big problems like climate change situationally, with short-term thinking. Look, no one’s naive about the moment we're living in with high gas prices. And the geopolitical uncertainty fueling them.
In January, we proposed to pause the gas tax increase. But now, it’s clear we must go further. That's why, working with legislative leadership, I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians to address rising gas prices.
On climate change
But at a time when we’ve been heating up and burning up, one thing we cannot do is repeat the mistakes of the past. Embracing polluters. Drilling even more oil, which only leads to even more extreme weather, more extreme drought, more wildfire.
What more evidence do we need? Just in the past few years, we’ve seen whole communities nearly wiped off the map — Greenville, Paradise, Grizzly Flats.
How many more are we willing to sacrifice? We need to be fighting polluters, not bolstering them. And in so doing, freeing us once and for all from the grasp of petro-dictators. But this conversation can’t just be about oil supply. Daily life still demands too much fossil fuel. That too has to change. Underscoring the importance of accelerating California’s leadership in clean technology, this is not just a national security and an environmental justice imperative — clean energy is this generation's greatest economic opportunity.
A perfect example: our dominance in electric vehicle sales and manufacturing. It was California’s policies that created this market. Now, we have the opportunity to extend this leadership, to secure a critical component of the supply chain for batteries, by tapping one of the world’s largest lithium reserves right here in California. Our nation-leading climate investments — almost $38 billion — will ensure that other innovations will surely follow not by recreating the 20th century, by extracting more oil, but by extracting new ideas drilling for new talent by running our economy on a carbon-free engine.
On the state’s economy
When it comes to the economy, California is unmatched. We dominate in research, innovation, entrepreneurialism, venture capital and remain the world’s fifth largest economy. Our GDP growth has consistently outpaced not only the rest of the country, but most other large, western democracies. Nearly a million new jobs in the last 12 months. In December alone, 25% of America's jobs were created right here in California. More new business starts during the worst of the pandemic than Texas and Florida combined.
But you know what makes us different from those states besides the freedom of choice? It’s that as our businesses grow, we don’t leave our workers behind. Just consider what we did last year for the middle class, sending $12 billion back — the largest state tax rebate in American history. We didn’t stop there. We raised the minimum wage. We increased paid sick leave, provided more paid family leave. Expanded child care to help working parents. And this year, with your support, we will do something no other state in America has done — provide health for all, regardless of immigration status.
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