California’s new Gov. Gavin Newsom, is plowing through his first six months with some nice money surpluses, some needed projects not yet done and a number of items to alter the state’s future.
Here is an early scorecard on his gubernatorial performance.
His predecessor, Jerry Brown, bequeathed the new head of state with a $21.5-billion surplus — much better than the $27 billion deficit that Brown inherited in 2011.
The budget totals nearly $215 billion.
Part of the surplus will be set aside: $19 billion in reserves. Newsom is also spending $3.3 billion to pay off what Brown labeled a “wall of debt.”
In addition, $4 billion extra is going toward downsizing unfunded public pension and retiree healthcare liabilities — future fiscal land mines for the state and local government that totals into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The legislature saved Newsom some headaches and, probably, defeats on a few complicated budget items.
Here are some of Newsom’s proposals.
The new governor wanted $140 million to clean up toxic drinking water throughout the state, most of it in low-income communities.
His tax would be paid by residential, commercial and agricultural water users. But the bill needed a two-thirds vote. And a new water tax when the state was sitting on a huge tax surplus was not popular. So lawmakers pulled $133 million out of the fund created to fight greenhouse gas emissions to clean water.
Here are some other items promoted by Newsom in his first half year:
• Created a pool purchaser of prescription drugs for the state and local governments. The entity will negotiate volume deals with drug companies who hate the idea.
• Offered Medi-Cal insurance for young adult immigrants up to age 26 who are living here illegally and provided subsidies for middle-class families so they can buy medical insurance. But the governor will require everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
• Provided a second year of fee-free community college for full-time students. They already get the first year free.
• Declared a moratorium on the death penalty, which Californians have twice voted to retain.
• Scaled way back on Brown’s two controversial public works projects: the bullet train and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water tunnels.
What Newsom hasn’t done: Figured out how to create the home construction boom he promised as a candidate and to clean up the homelessness mess. That’s still being negotiated.
Later this fall, he will experience writer’s cramp after he signed or vetoed about 1,000 bills.
But, that’s the job he wanted and now is he is charged to do it.