OPINION – There’s no state in America quite like California. In troubled times for the Nation, California is where the American Dream is alive and well. The most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy, California is big-hearted, thriving, inclusive and bold.
This year, we’ve been working to build a California for All. Governing by our values of growth and inclusion, we have made principled yet practical investments in our people and our future.
Making sure that those investments are built to last, we have budgeted responsibly for the years ahead. Our balanced, on-time budget created the largest rainy day fund in state history and paid down California’s wall of debt.
That budget addressed the biggest challenges we face. Today, I will share our work to tackle the high cost of living in California, prevent and prepare for emergencies, and combat homelessness.
First, we’re working to confront the state’s affordability crisis. It is our state’s foundational economic challenge, which threatens lives and threatens futures. The things that make it possible to get ahead – housing, health care, saving for your kids’ college or your retirement – are getting farther out of reach for Californians.
When I took office last January, I got to work to make life more affordable for all. Together, we expanded healthcare subsidies to middle-class Californians. We took on rising prescription drug costs by seeking to establish the nation’s largest single purchaser system for drugs. We helped put higher education within reach of more Californians by providing two free years of community college to first-time, full-time students and negotiated tuition freezes at California’s universities.
We also put money back in the pockets of California parents by doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and adding a $1,000 credit for families with children under the age of six. We eased the financial burden on parents by repealing the sales and use tax on diapers.
Second, we are making sure that California is ready for the next natural disaster, and that communities still recovering from catastrophic wildfires have what they need to rebuild.
We invested $1 billion to build disaster resiliency, response and recovery – including funding the pre-positioning of emergency response teams in times of high-risk wildfire conditions. We launched Listos California, a statewide network of community organizations that build disaster resiliency in vulnerable communities. We also moved the state toward a safer, affordable and reliable energy future by drafting wildfire safety and accountability measures and working with the Legislature to create a $21 billion wildfire fund.
Finally, we’re working nonstop to confront the statewide crisis of homelessness, which impacts 130,000 Californians in every corner of our state.
We’re pursuing solutions that work. We made a historic $2.75 billion investment — the most California has ever spent — on programs to fight homelessness and build more housing. That amount included $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid to cities and counties so that they can implement the best local solutions for their communities. We’re also striking at the root causes of homelessness, including the unacceptable lack of housing construction and unscrupulous landlords who price-gouge their tenants and unfairly evict them. We negotiated and signed the nation’s strongest statewide renter protections and worked with technology companies to secure $4.5 billion towards California’s housing crisis.
We’re “all in” on tackling this crisis because it is a major quality of life issue not just for the person sleeping on a sidewalk, but for everyone in their community. We recognize that every homeless individual is someone’s child, parent, or friend. Many times, they are our service members, who served honorably in our military and fell onto hard times after they got home. These individuals are often struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.
They deserve better than the reckless rhetoric and heartless cuts to the social safety net that Washington is offering. They deserve the thoughtful solutions that we are pursuing in California, in partnership with local governments, the private sector, and philanthropists statewide.
Make no mistake, we have so much more work to do. There are still too many Californians who do not get to share in the prosperity that they help to create. For them, and their children – and California’s continued leadership in the nation and the world – we must boldly confront our remaining challenges. These challenges demand bold solutions, and above all, the courage for a change.
Fortunately, we have no shortage of courage here in California, a state of dreamers and do-ers who are not afraid to take risks for what’s right.
In the year ahead, we’ll continue to work hard and aim high on behalf of all Californians, and everyone who looks to our state as a beacon of hope.
By Governor Gavin Newsom