Capitol Alert

Update: 100 days in, here’s how Gavin Newsom is doing on 10 campaign promises

One hundred days into his tenure, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken initial steps toward many of promises he made on the campaign trail, from proposing increased funding for homeless services to speeding up firefighting efforts.

He’s far from accomplishing many of his concrete long-term goals, however, like building 3.5 million new homes and creating half a million apprenticeships. He says he’s nevertheless done a lot in his first months in office.

“Thirty-year trendlines can’t be reversed overnight, but we’ve seeded a lot of these things,” Newsom told The Bee in an interview Monday.

At this point in his term, he says he’s most focused on housing, homelessness and health care, as well as dealing with often-confusing signals from President Donald Trump. He says his priorities will be on display next month when he announces his revised budget proposal after months of negotiating with the Legislature.

Here’s a look at 10 promises Newsom made while campaigning for governor. Click or tap each topic to see what Newsom pledged and whether he’s delivering.

1. Build 3.5 million new homes by 2025

Newsom pledged to confront California’s housing shortage with an ambitious goal: 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. Reaching that figure, which the building industry says is necessary to meet projected population growth, would require the state to build housing five times faster. To boost construction, Newsom proposed increasing tax credits for affordable housing development and streamlining land use approvals. He also said he would hold cities accountable for failing to meet state-determined housing goals and revamp the tax code, which he believes encourages commercial development over home construction.

What he’s doing: Newsom sued Huntington Beach in January, arguing the Orange County city isn’t allowing enough housing for low-income people. If successful, the lawsuit could compel the coastal city to support construction of more affordable housing. Newsom has threatened to also sue other cities that fail to meet building targets outlined in state law.

He’s pushing to withhold money for road repairs from communities that aren’t working hard enough to build more housing. Although he characterizes his relationship with the Legislature as overwhelmingly positive, it’s one of the few areas where he says negotiations have been tough. Some Democratic lawmakers have publicly criticized his plan, signaling it faces significant hurdles.

Newsom says he’s not backing down, and that communities won’t have an excuse not to step up construction under his budget plan. His proposal includes $250 million to help cities and counties plan for more housing and another $500 million to reward them when they hit milestones.

The budget also proposes half a billion dollars to expand a loan program for mixed-income developments and another half billion annually to increase the state tax credit for affordable housing projects.

At Newsom’s direction, the state compiled an inventory of excess state property. Newsom says he’s working with several cities, including Sacramento, to build affordable housing on that land.

2. Strengthen tenant protections

Although Newsom opposed what he described as a flawed November ballot initiative to let cities and counties limit rent increases, he said he still supported expanding rent control. Voters rejected the measure, and Newsom pledged to broker a better deal in the Legislature.

What he’s doing: In his State of the State speech, he encouraged the Legislature to tackle the issue. “Get me a good package on rent stability this year and I will sign it,” he said.

3. Combat homelessness

California is home to a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. To tackle the issue, Newsom proposed creating a cabinet-level position to address homelessness. He told The Bee in July that he wants to tie state funding to increased development of supportive housing as an incentive for local governments. He also wants to help communities enroll more homeless people in the federal disability program that provides a monthly stipend.

What he’s doing: Although he has yet to name anyone to a cabinet-level position on the issue, Newsom has appointed Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to lead a task force on homelessness. In his initial budget proposal, Newsom slated $500 million for cities and counties that develop regional plans to address homelessness. Most of the one-time funding must be spent on developing or expanding emergency shelters and supportive housing. Newsom intends to introduce legislation to streamline the environmental review process for homeless housing and develop a policy for using Caltrans property for emergency shelters. The budget plan also includes $25 million in ongoing funding for counties to help homeless people apply for federal disability benefits and $100 million to test out new programs for coordinating local homeless services.

4. Provide health care for all

Newsom called for a universal health care system and endorsed a single-payer bill in 2017 that ultimately failed. That stance won him support from some progressives and the powerful California Nurses Association, even as Newsom also discussed the obstacles to developing government-run, universal health coverage at the state level, such as the high cost and need for federal approval.

What he’s doing: Although he hasn’t called for the Legislature to take up a new single-payer bill, Newsom did send a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders seeking permission to pursue a single-payer system in California. The federal government is unlikely to approve it, but Newsom is taking other steps toward universal coverage. His January budget proposal includes $260 million to allow full access to Medi-Cal — the state’s health insurance program for the poor — for young adults living in the country illegally. Newsom estimates about 138,000 more immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 will be covered. “I’m committed to universal health care… regardless of time of life, regardless of pre-existing conditions, ability to pay and regardless of immigration status,” Newsom told The Bee. “That’s the goal.”

Until then, Newsom wants to fine Californians who don’t buy insurance. That revenue would fund larger subsidies for low- and middle-income people to purchase health plans. Newsom signed an executive order calling for state health care officials to negotiate all drug prices for Medi-Cal by 2021, a move intended to reduce costs.

5. Establish universal preschool

Newsom closed his campaign emphasizing the need to expand early childhood education programs. As part of a broader focus on improving preparation and health outcomes during the first three years of a child’s life, he prioritized making preschool available to all kids. About half of California children eligible for the state’s public preschool programs are not enrolled due to a lack of space. During a campaign stop at a Sacramento preschool the week before the election, where he dressed as Batman and trick-or-treated with toddlers, Newsom told reporters, “We don’t have an achievement gap as it relates to education in this state, we have a readiness gap. People aren’t left behind, they start behind.”

What he’s doing: As a first step, Newsom has proposed making preschool available to all low-income 4-year-olds in California over the next three years. He requested $125 million in his January budget proposal, with additional funding over the next two years, to create 200,000 more slots at non-profit preschools. Newsom set aside another $10 million to hire outside researchers who can develop a long-term plan for reaching universal preschool. It’s part of a broader push on early learning and children’s issues, which includes $750 million to ensure full-day kindergarten is available in every school district, $500 million to expand state-subsidized child care programs and $247 million to provide more child care access for college students. Newsom is also convening a task force to study how California can adopt six months of paid leave for new parents.

6. Limit wildfire damage

Amid the devastating wildfires of 2018, Newsom told The Bee that California must rethink its land management strategies, remove dead trees, increase funding for fire departments, invest in a statewide weather monitoring system, install a network of early warning cameras and more aggressively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

What he’s doing: In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, the deadliest blaze in California history that drove PG&E into bankruptcy, Newsom is urging the Legislature to consider changing liability laws for utilities. California law currently holds utilities like PG&E financially liable for fires started by their equipment, regardless of whether they acted negligently. Advocates for fire victims have criticized the idea of weakening the liability standards, arguing it would reduce utilities’ incentive to prevent their equipment from sparking fires.

In the meantime, Newsom has declared a statewide emergency to fast-track tree clearing and other forest management work by exempting such projects from some environmental review. His administration is also launching a public information campaign aimed at helping communities prepare for fires. And he’s moved some National Guard troops from the Mexican border to assist with firefighting.

Newsom has proposed $201 million to update California’s fire engines and helicopters, increase use of fire-detecting infrared cameras and satellite imaging, and provide more firefighter health services. Newsom also supports adding a fee to Californians’ phone bills to fund an upgrade of the state’s 911 system. A similar proposal failed last legislative session.

He has also endorsed retrofitting more homes for fire resiliency, citing a McClatchy investigation that found homes built to modern fire standards were far more likely to survive the Camp Fire.

7. Extend gun control measures

During his first press conference as governor-elect, Newsom called for “raising the bar” on gun control in the state. A staunch advocate of gun safety measures, such as banning high-capacity magazines and instituting background checks for ammunition, Newsom said he would revisit some bills Gov. Jerry Brown previously rejected. That may include a measure broadening who can seek a gun violence restraining order. “There are a number of things he vetoed that I would not have vetoed, and there are a number of things that I want that haven’t been done,” Newsom said.

What he’s doing: Newsom proposed a $5.6 million funding increase in his January budget plan for the program that removes weapons from those who are no longer allowed to own them, which has struggled for years to keep up with confiscating weapons.

8. Create 500,000 apprenticeships by 2029

In the Central Valley, where fewer residents have college degrees than in other parts of the state, Newsom campaigned on boosting apprenticeships to help workers get jobs in a rapidly changing economy. He proposed partnering with community colleges and businesses to create half a million apprenticeships over the next decade in growing fields like advanced manufacturing, health services and information technology. “The vast majority of us will not get a bachelor’s degree in a fancy institution of higher learning, and we need an agenda to support those folks,” Newsom said in Fresno. He suggested it could be an area of collaboration with the federal government.

What he's doing: In his budget proposal, Newsom specified that the state spend $27 million yearly for apprenticeship programs called for under California’s cap-and-trade law, which Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2017. The apprenticeships would be concentrated in “disadvantaged communities” and draw from funds generated by cap and trade, which makes companies pay to pollute. Newsom’s proposal would fund slots for 6,500 people in apprenticeship programs over five years - far short of his stated goal, although he told The Bee that he and his senior advisers are discussing augmenting that proposal.

9. Expand the earned income tax credit

One out of every five Californians lives in poverty – and by some measures it’s even more. Aiming to lift up some of those families, Newsom proposed expanding the state’s earned income tax credit, a recently-created refund for the working poor. About 1.3 million households received nearly $300 million in credits on their 2017 earnings, according to the Franchise Tax Board. Newsom could bolster the program by increasing the value of the credit, which maxes out at about $2,500 for a family of four, or by making more Californians eligible, including those who are out of work or are not living the country legally.

What he’s doing: Newsom made a major expansion of the tax credit, now dubbed the “Working Families Tax Credit,” a centerpiece of his January budget proposal. His plan would more than double available credits to $1 billion and expand eligibility to 400,000 additional families by raising the qualifying income, so that full-time workers who earn up to $15 per hour are eligible. Families with children under the age of 6 would receive an extra $500 credit. Newsom is also exploring the possibility of offering the refunds on a monthly, rather than annual, basis. He intends to pay for the expansion by making administrative changes to comply with the 2017 federal tax overhaul that would have some Californians paying more state tax.

10. End use of private prisons and money bail

Newsom vowed to end private prisons and the state’s bail system, arguing they contribute to over-incarceration and advance profits over justice. Last year, Newsom co-sponsored a new law to end bail, arguing the practice unfairly punishes people for being poor. The law replaces the existing system with one that determines whether to release defendants awaiting trial based on their risk to public safety. But the bail industry has since put a referendum on the 2020 ballot that could overturn the law and delays implementation until voters weigh in.

What he’s doing: Newsom says he will “actively” defend the law against the bail industry’s challenge but stopped short of pledging any of the $15 million left over from his gubernatorial run. He said campaigning on initiatives is an important part of his job but that he needs to know what else is on the ballot before promising money. “That’s certainly a big role and responsibility of the governor, so I will not take that off the table,” he told The Bee in April.

He pointed to $75 million he included budget proposal to help courts adopt new pretrial programs that incorporate risk assessment as evidence of his support for overhauling the system.

By sometime this summer, he said, he anticipates the state will have ended ties with the Arizona prison that represents the last private out-of-state facility housing California inmates. But Newsom hasn’t laid out plans to end contracts with private prisons inside the state.

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