Capitol Alert

‘The adult in the room:’ Gavin Newsom says he’s not necessarily a big spender

Democrat Gavin Newsom has made clear on the campaign trail that he has grand, and expensive, ambitions if he is elected the next governor of California: Universal preschool. Health care for all. Tackling homelessness. More workforce development.

But, as he sees it, that doesn’t make him a big spender. In fact, he plans to pursue his policy goals so judiciously that he’ll be able to expand the state’s budget reserve while he’s at it.

At a campaign stop Wednesday in Sacramento, where he handed out Halloween candy at the Penleigh Child Development Center while dressed as Batman, Newsom compared himself to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has often been a moderating force on the more liberal spending agenda of the Legislature.

“When it comes to fiscal discipline, I am absolutely in that same mold. When it comes to setting aside more money in the rainy-day reserve, you can count it. I’m not profligate,” Newsom said.

So how would he do it? Newsom suggested that partnerships at the federal and local level could allow California to achieve more.

He also tried to temper expectations somewhat, noting that many of his plans would take years to accomplish and he may have to focus first on creating a framework for later expansion.

“As governor, people find their areas of priority,” Newsom said. “There are tradeoffs. But it’s not a zero-sum game. The economy is growing. Our capacity and resourcefulness is not limited to the state budget.”

While he was mayor of San Francisco, Newsom added, the city adopted universal preschool and universal health care, even as the economic recession hit. He points to that leadership as evidence of his ability to advance new programs when means are limited, though paying for the latter required a new surcharge on restaurant bills.

“I had to say no more often than I said yes. I was the proverbial adult in the room,” Newsom said. “We made tough choices. That’s who I am, that’s who I’ve always been.”

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