December 7, 2021

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Here’s what Gavin Newsom wanted to fund before coronavirus rocked California’s economy

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Gavin Newsom counted on a rising economy that would give California a budget surplus and room to spend on programs that would benefit low-income families, the homeless and undocumented seniors.

Working then with an estimated $16 billion in reserves, Newsom set aside hundreds of millions of dollars in his $222 billion January proposal to finance a handful of progressive ideas — from expanding health care for undocumented residents to pouring money into programs for the homeless.

“Our state has provided the rocket fuel for the nation’s economic expansion,” Newsom wrote in his plan. “California is showing the nation and the world what big-hearted, effective governance looks like.”

Here’s a look at what he proposed before the downturn:

Expanding Medi-Cal

Newsom’s original plan included expanding Medi-Cal to California’s low-income undocumented seniors. He framed the effort as an “investment” to help the state accomplish a goal of “universal coverage” for all Californians.

The governor last year approved an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for low-income residents, to young undocumented adults. This year’s January proposal would have allowed undocumented people over the age of 65 to apply for the program.

The plan included $80.5 million to initiate the expansion, though full implementation was projected to cost $350 million.

Help for the homeless

Newsom’s January proposal included $750 million to help homeless organizations shelter the state’s 150,000 Californians. The money was set aside to develop affordable housing units and support rent subsidies.

“Homelessness is a national crisis, one that’s spreading across the West Coast and cities across the country,” Newsom had said in a statement. “The state of California is treating it as a real emergency.”

The coronavirus outbreak has not necessarily halted new state spending on homelessness.

The Legislature passed in mid-March a $1.1 billion legislative package to help finance some of Newsom’s executive orders, which included finding thousands of hotel rooms to house vulnerable homeless people who’d been exposed to or had COVID-19.

Recruiting new teachers

The January financial outline sought to provide $900 million to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in struggling California schools.

The money would have funded professional development, competitive grants and $20,000 bonuses for educators who commit to high-needs schools.

Newsom said the dollars were intended to assist districts in closing the achievement gap by stocking classrooms with qualified educators committed to staying in the classroom and developing their craft.

“We believe the biggest achievement boost,” Newsom said during a Jan. 10 budget press conference, “is fully prepared teachers.”

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a Long Beach Democrat and chairman of the Assembly Edcucation Committee, anticipated that investment is “off the table.”

“It’s not a time to start contemplating new programs,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a time to attempt to fund existing programs on an adequate level.”

Ending animal euthanasia

The governor earned cheers from animal activists in January when he included in his proposal $50 million in one-time funding for the University of California Davis to develop a program that would “help local communities achieve the state’s longstanding policy goal that no adoptable or treatable dog or cat is euthanized.”

“We want to be a no-kill state,” Newsom said when unveiling his budget four months ago.

A California generic drug label

One of Newsom’s January proposals would put California in the business of selling prescription drugs. He said the plan would help lower health costs.

“The state would contract with one or more generic drug manufacturers to manufacture certain generic drugs on behalf of the state and participating entities,” his budget prpoosal said. “This proposal will increase competition in the generic market, resulting in lower generic drug prices for all purchasers.”

Newsom also wanted to establish a single market for drug purchasing in California, which would require a bidding process by manufacturers in order to sell drugs in the state.

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