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Opinion: Richard Markuson

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Richard Markuson

Newsom's Agenda
California will have a better picture today, when Governor Gavin Newsom releases his first budget, but he has tipped his hand, to a degree, with some of his staff appointments and signals of his policy objectives.
Newsom has released some key line items from the $200 billion-plus budget outline:

  • $1.8 billion for early childhood education and childcare.
  • $105 million (on top of $200 million approved last year) for wildfire prevention.
  • $40 million for a second year of free community college tuition for Californians.
  • An adjustment of the state trust fund reserve rules to extend California's paid family leave program beyond the current six weeks to as long as six months with partial pay for new parents.
  • $140 million to expand Medi-Cal coverage to young adults between 19 and 25 who are undocumented.
  • Subsidized premiums for Californians who can't afford health insurance, paid for by a reinstatement of the Obamacare penalty, in this state only, for those who choose not to be covered.
Not in the budget, but also an important health care piece, is an executive order directing the state's agencies, including the one that oversees Medi-Cal, to negotiate with prescription drug makers. The move will make California the nation's largest negotiator against pharmaceutical companies--and could prove a model for other states.
Also signaling his political tack are some of his staff appointments-- one in particular has California employers a little concerned.
Anthony Williams, who was special counsel to former California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, is legislative secretary.
Ann O'Leary, chief of staff, former advisor to Hillary Clinton.
Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary a Capitol veteran who had served stints as finance director under Schwarzenegger and Brown.
Angie Wei as his chief deputy cabinet secretary for policy development. Was chief of staff for the California Labor Federation, shaping policy on behalf of 2.1 million union workers.
As Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Julie A. Su, a California Labor Commissioner since 2011.
It is the Wei appointment that is causing some angst. The LA Times called Wei "a Capitol insider with deep ties to organized labor in California... As a legislative director and chief of staff at the California Labor Federation, Wei has represented more than 1,200 unions and 2.1 million workers in Capitol fights over a host of policy issues including drug pricing transparency and paid family leave." Wei also fought efforts last year to delay the Dynamex ruling that upended years of law and practice in deciding who is an employee and who can be considered an independent contractor. Labor and the Labor Federation was important to Newsom's election and it is natural that he would reward that support and Newsom has claimed to be a "business-friendly Democrat" which in some parts of the State would be a death sentence. But a review by The Sacramento Bee found Newsom "has shifted his positions to the left on issues ranging from sanctuary cities to high-speed rail and charter schools. Some of the changes have made him vulnerable to the critique that he's flip-flopped."
Only time will tell where the Newsom administration lands on the political spectrum but most in Sacramento agree he will veer further left than his predecessor.