Walters: Gut check: Newsom’s state budget proposal is already showing its shortcomings

Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 2024-25 state budget less than a month ago, but its structural deficiencies – overly optimistic revenue projections and a reliance on short-term fixes that don’t address a long-term problem – are already surfacing.

Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Most ominously, the budget’s revenue assumptions for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which still has nearly five months to run, are falling billions of dollars short.

Jason Sisney, the state Assembly’s budget maven, has looked at personal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments to date and concluded that revenues from just that source “may end January around $6 billion short” of Newsom’s projections.

If that trend continues, the state will close the 2023-24 fiscal year with much less money than Newsom’s budget assumes, and therefore a much-larger deficit than the $38 billion he has acknowledged.

The Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek, has already estimated that the deficit is $68 billion because he believes revenues will fall well short of Newsom’s assumptions, and so far the data has supported Petek’s gloomier picture.

The “solutions” Newsom proposed to close the deficit contain relatively few true spending reductions and are heavy on tapping reserves, borrowing money from other state funds outside the budget, accounting gimmicks and deferring some spending.

However, those tactics run the risk of increasing future deficits, as a new analysis of higher education spending by Petek’s office points out. The state is providing about $21 billion for community colleges, the University of California and the California State University system, and Newsom’s budget proposal would increase that amount slightly, mostly for community colleges.

The budget also would enact some spending deferrals. The net effect, Petek’s office concluded, would be self-defeating in the long run.

“Asking UC and CSU to operate their programs at a level the state currently cannot afford puts not only the state and the segments at risk but also other state programs that might be cut next year to make room for the added higher education spending,” the analysis warned.

Newsom’s relatively expansive assumptions about revenues and its reliance on short-term maneuvers, if adopted by the Legislature, could backfire badly by increasing deficits in the years following 2024-25. Petek has warned the Legislature that the state could see annual deficits in the $30 billion neighborhood for the remainder of Newsom’s governorship, which will end in 2027.

“Overall, the governor’s budget runs the risk of understating the degree of fiscal pressure facing the state in the future,” Petek said last month after Newsom introduced his budget. “The Legislature likely will face more difficult choices next year. To mitigate these challenges, we recommend the Legislature develop this year’s budget with a focus on future years.”

The fine print in Newsom’s own budget says the state’s finances could be $81 billion out of balance by 2027-28 as revenues stagnate, spending automatically increases on K-12 schools and community colleges due to a section of the state constitution, and the state’s reserves are exhausted.

The question posed by these trends is whether the Legislature is willing to bite the fiscal bullet now, as Petek recommends, to mitigate future shortfalls, or endorse Newsom’s strategy of avoiding difficult cuts in the hope that revenues will pick up sufficiently in the future.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

What went wrong at EDD? An investigation of its managerial meltdown

In theory, we humans practice politics as a pathway to governance – providing an array of laws, regulations and services to protect and otherwise enhance the lives of the governed.

In practice, politics often – too often – become all-consuming exercises that bear only the faintest relationship to governance. Case in point: the U.S. Congress.

An aspect of that disconnect is the eagerness of those in office to build their images by constantly offering up proposals for new laws, services and programs while ignoring whether earlier laws, services and programs that officialdom birthed are performing as promised.

Often they are not, but even when informed about the shortcomings of design and/or implementation, officials tend to minimize or brush aside the criticism, fearing that acknowledgement would be a sign of weakness. Management and oversight just don’t have the political sex appeal of some shiny new notion that promises boundless benefits.

Examples of the syndrome abound, particularly in a state as large and diverse as California.

The state’s bullet train project is certainly one. Billions of dollars have been consumed and various structures have been built but the project has become a zombie, something that’s neither alive nor dead.

Oroville Dam is another. It was poorly designed and shoddily constructed in the 1960s and those who managed it knew of its deficiencies, particularly spillways that couldn’t handle Feather River flows from extraordinary storms.

But the interest groups that provided financial support for the dam in return for water were evidently not willing to spend the money necessary to make it safe.

Officialdom didn’t make it a priority, even when safety issues were raised in 2005 during the dam’s relicensing. In 2017, it came extremely close to a collapse that could have killed thousands of people.

There are many others but the poster child for governmental dysfunction has to be the Employment Development Department, which imploded during the COVID-19 pandemic as millions of Californians lost their jobs and needed unemployment insurance benefits.

EDD managed to simultaneously deny countless unemployed workers of the life-sustaining benefits to which they were entitled and parcel out countless billions of dollars in benefits to clever fraudsters.

A preview of EDD’s dysfunctional tendencies was felt during the Great Recession a decade earlier and the state’s watchdogs, the state auditor’s office and the Legislature’s budget analyst, issued timely warnings of potential disaster. But three governors and hundreds of legislators couldn’t be bothered to fix them and the result was cruel chaos.

In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe at the Oroville Dam, an exhaustive and damning analysis of what went wrong was commissioned. EDD deserves similar scrutiny.

After a year of painstaking research and interviews, CalMatters investigative reporter Lauren Hepler has written a four-part series that delves into what happened and why. She also catalogs the pain that EDD’s managerial collapse imposed on people who needed unemployment insurance benefits when the state shut down their jobs.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Politicians Point Fingers as Tolerance of Homelessness Wears Thin

Many political promises have been made, many billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent and many programs have been launched, but the state’s homelessness crisis continues to worsen and Californians’ tolerance has worn thin.

A few months ago, the Public Policy Institute of California took the public’s temperature on the issue and found that overwhelming majorities of the state’s adults want something done, pronto. It’s one of the few major issues that bridges the state’s otherwise wide partisan divide.

“Things have shifted, and everybody’s jobs are on the damn line, and they should be,” Gov. Gavin Newsom told a Dreamforce conference in San Francisco last week. “We’re only interested in real results, and that’s our commitment to all of you.”

Underscoring the situation’s fraught politics, Newsom has denounced a federal magistrate who blocked San Francisco’s plans to clean up squalid encampments, pledged that the state will intervene in the case and expressed hope that a very conservative U.S. Supreme Court might lift the ban.

“That’s a hell of a statement coming from a progressive Democrat from California that says we need help from the Supreme Court,” Newsom said during his Dreamforce interview.

Newsom said that during an unannounced visit to San Francisco – a city he once governed as mayor – he saw a disgusting level of drug abuse near a city police station.

“People aren’t giving a damn that any of us are there,” he said. “They were dealing, were using, were abusing, and there was a police department substation, and it was all happening across the street. All I thought was, how damn demoralized everybody must be. There go all our tax dollars and who the hell is running this place?”

Who indeed?

The social and political angst in San Francisco over how to do something effective about homelessness is not confined to that city. There are at least 170,000 people living on the streets in California and every large city faces its version of the syndrome.

Karen Bass was elected mayor of Los Angeles on her pledge to clean up its streets but has only been able to tinker at the margins, while the numbers of the unhoused have continued to climb.

The sidewalks of Sacramento near the state Capitol are packed with encampments of homeless men and women, sparking a sharp clash between the city’s mayor, former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, and Sacramento County’s newly elected district attorney, Thien Ho.

For weeks, Ho issued public denunciations of city officials for, he said, failing to enforce anti-camping laws and at one point even threatened to issue criminal charges against them.

Last week, Ho filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging its inaction is creating a public nuisance. A companion suit was filed by a coalition of city residents and business owners.

“Enough is enough,” Ho told The Sacramento Bee. “We need to address this public safety crisis for both the housed and the unhoused.”

The 36-page lawsuit describes Sacramento as a once-thriving city that faces “descent into decay and this utter collapse into chaos,” threatening both housed and unhoused residents.

“The frustration that members of our community feel is absolutely justified,” Steinberg said in a statement, defending steps the city has taken to deal with the issue, and criticizing Ho’s intervention.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Annual Crime Report Shows Californians’ Fear of Increasing Crime Is Justified

Political officeholders at all levels and of all ideological stripes habitually pursue a time-dishonored practice when releasing data.

If it’s positive, politicians try to maximize its importance with lavish news conferences and self-congratulatory declarations.

If, on the other hand, the data have a negative cast, they will be released quietly, often late on a Friday afternoon, to minimize media coverage.

California’s annual report on crime was released this year on the Friday before what for many would be a four-day, Fourth of July holiday weekend. That’s a tipoff that it would not be good news – and, in fact, it received minimal media attention.

The 2022 report revealed that the state’s violent crime rate increased by 6.1% since 2021, and property crime was up 6.2%. Homicides dipped very slightly, but robberies jumped by 10.2%.

Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a low-key statement with the data release, saying, “While crime rates remain significantly below their historical highs, property and violent crimes continue to have devastating consequences for communities across the state, and gun violence remains a major threat to public safety.”

One can be certain that had California seen a drop in crime in 2022, Bonta would have trumpeted it as loudly as possible.

Let’s be clear: Neither Bonta nor any other attorney general can have more than a marginal effect on crime rates. Nevertheless, their campaigns often depict themselves as the state’s top cop and imply that they do have such authority.

Why crime rates ebb and flow is the subject of never-ending academic and political debate – and is colored by equally erratic public concerns about being victimized.

At the moment, Californians’ worries about crime appear to be on the upswing, as indicated by one of the Public Policy Institute of California’s periodic polls, conducted just before last fall’s election.

“Californians’ perception of crime spiked during the pandemic – as did certain types of crime,” PPIC found, adding, “nearly two in three Californians call violence and street crime in their local community a problem. This includes 31% who call them a big problem, a noticeable increase from February 2020 (24%).”

The poll found that among racial and ethnic groups, Black Californians expressed the highest level of concern about crime, women were more concerned than men, and Republicans more than Democrats or independent voters.

The data released on June 30 imply that those concerns are rooted in fact. Crime did increase sharply last year, particularly robberies, and it has not gone unnoticed in the media.

The proliferation of cameras in stores and in the hands of cellphone owners has produced a never-ending supply of crime video snippets, such as smash-and-grab invasions of stores, for television newscasts, which then reverberate on YouTube and other online outlets.

Just a few days after the crime report release, for example, a San Francisco TV station aired video of criminals breaking into a Bay Area visitor’s rental car in broad daylight, stealing the contents and driving away.

Bonta and the man who appointed him attorney general before he won reelection in November, Gov. Gavin Newsom, have pursued somewhat ambivalent postures about crime. They lament its effects on victims and take some public crime-fighting steps while championing criminal justice reform to reduce traditional punishment of those caught breaking the law.

A day before the crime data were released, Newsom dispatched more California Highway Patrol officers to battle open air drug dealing in San Francisco, a city he once governed as mayor.

In decades past, spikes in crime have had major impacts on California’s political atmosphere – helping Republicans become dominant in the 1980s, for example.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Lengthy Pandemic Closures Weakened Already Low-Achieving California Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom is fond of rattling off statistics that prove, he claims, California’s enviable status as a national, or even global, leader in all things wonderful.

He tends, however, to cherrypick his numbers rather than provide a full picture, as a recent Sacramento Bee analysis of his economic assertions on national television demonstrates.

However, there’s one aspect of California society – perhaps its most important – that Newsom excludes from his episodes of braggadocio: how the state is educating nearly 6 million public school students.

The sad fact is that California’s students fare poorly vis-à-vis those of other states when it comes to basic skills in language and mathematics, as underscored in a newly published report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

California kids were lagging behind even before Newsom and other officials shut down schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and, the PPIC studies show, educational proficiency plummeted during the closures.

When state academic testing resumed in 2022 after being suspended during the pandemic, it showed “significant declines in proficiency rates.”

Before the pandemic, 51% of students met standards in English language arts (ELA) and it had dropped to 47%. In mathematics, proficiency declined from 40% to 33%.

“Only 35% of low-income students met state standards in ELA and 21% were proficient in math,” PPIC reported, “compared to 65% of higher-income students in ELA and 51% in math.”

Furthermore, PPIC noted, the nationwide test of reading and math proficiency “shows that California has consistently lagged behind most other states … 38th in math and 33rd in reading.”

Since Newsom is particularly fond of comparing California to other states, particularly Florida and Texas, one might wonder how we fare in educational attainment. The answer is, PPIC says, that “Florida ranks much higher than California.” However, the state “is ranked just above Texas in reading but far below in math,” although it does best New York in reading and math.

While school closures loomed large in the overall erosion of educational achievement during the pandemic, there were significant differences within the state because closures were not uniform.

“Most of California’s public school students spent the majority of the 2020–21 academic year fully online – longer than students in other states,” PPIC’s research found, but “the return to in-person instruction varied across the state.” Rural counties tended to return to in-person schooling more quickly than schools in urban areas. By June 2021, San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties had fewer than 10% of their school systems returned to classroom instruction.

PPIC did not mention that in urban school districts – Los Angeles Unified most notably – teacher unions often refused to return to the classroom without concessions from their employers, thus continuing online classes for additional months.

Newsom advocated reopening schools and his own kids quickly resumed classes at their private school, but he refused to intervene in districts that were lagging behind in returning kids to the classroom, apparently unwilling to confront the unions.

Variations in reopening meant that “districts with more Black, Latino, low-income, and English Learner students tended to reopen later than other districts,” and “learning gaps widened the longer students remained remote and may have worsened longstanding achievement gaps between low-income marginalized students and their peers.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

How Will Newsom, Legislators Deal With Growing Revenue Shortfalls?

When Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 2023-24 budget in January, he acknowledged that the revenue estimates made six months earlier were way too optimistic and that the state had evolved from a nearly $100 billion surplus to a $22.5 billion deficit.

Never mind. Nine months into the current fiscal year, it’s evident that revenue, principally from personal income taxes, will fall well short of that downward revision. The deficit could hit $30 billion as he and legislative leaders begin to focus on a final version for adoption in June.

Through February, the administration reported, revenues were running nearly $5 billion below expectations and they fell short by nearly $1 billion more in March.

The numbers bolster contentions by the Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek, that the state’s fiscal situation was unhealthier than Newsom was admitting. In his initial response to the January budget, Petek said, “Our estimates suggest that there is a good chance that revenues will be lower than the administration’s projections for the budget window, particularly in 2022-23 and 2023-24.”

The next stop for the annual budget process will come in May, when Newsom must unveil revised revenue estimates and appropriations. The worsening revenue data set the stage for what could be contentious negotiations with a June 15 constitutional deadline for passing a budget.

The essential problem is that when Newsom was forecasting an immense surplus and bragging that “no other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this,” he and the Legislature spent much of it on rebates to taxpayers and expansions of programs, especially those benefiting the poor.

Although Newsom insisted at the time that much of that spending was one-time in nature and therefore wouldn’t make unsustainable long-term commitments, it nevertheless raised expectations of permanency. Thus, when Newsom offered a new budget in January, he clawed back many of those allocations, particularly those that hadn’t yet been spent, sparking complaints from would-be recipients.

As revenues continue to fall short, expectations will have to shrink further, the competition for money among budget stakeholders will become more intense and the pressure on Newsom and legislators will increase.

They may be tempted to do something that Newsom says he doesn’t want to do and that Petek says would be foolhardy: tap into the state’s “rainy day” reserves to relieve stakeholder pressure.

The reserves are meant to be used during a severe economic downturn, but California’s fiscal problem is occurring during a relatively prosperous post-pandemic recovery. The shortfall in revenues is occurring because of the state’s narrowly based revenue system, one that is largely dependent on earnings of high-income taxpayers, particular in the shaky technology sector.

The stock market has reacted negatively to the Federal Reserve System’s interest rate increases, which are meant to combat inflation. Declines in the market manifest themselves in lower taxable earnings by investors who are such a large factor in the revenue stream. The system is so narrowly based that lower incomes for just a handful of wealthy Californians can have a big effect on revenues.

Dipping into reserves to cover the revenue shortfall would weaken their ability to cushion a recession if and when that occurs, which is why Petek strongly discourages New

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Faces a Housing/Wildfire Conundrum

California must ramp up housing construction to reduce the ever-widening gap between supply and demand and ease the high shelter costs that drive families into poverty and contribute to the state’s homelessness crisis.

However, given the seemingly nonstop series of uber-destructive wildfires California is experiencing, prudence dictates that we should also avoid housing construction in what’s called the “wildland urban interface” where fires are most likely to have cataclysmic impacts.

The friction between those two imperatives is played out in the political arena, where officialdom makes land use policy.

A case in point: Two years ago, by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, the Legislature passed a bill that would have required local governments to make fire safety a major factor in approving housing developments in fire-prone areas by compelling developers to include protective features.

The measure was passed in response to a wave of killer fires, including the Camp Fire that destroyed the rural community of Paradise in 2018, killing 86 people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill, saying that while he supported its aims it “creates a loophole for regions to not comply with their housing requirements.”

“Wildfire resilience must become a more consistent part of land use and development decisions. However, it must be done while meeting our housing needs,” Newsom wrote.

In the absence of clear policy from the Legislature and the governor on limiting construction in fire-prone areas of the state, Attorney General Rob Bonta has intervened.

This year he joined forces with environmental groups to stall a huge housing and golf resort project in Lake County, where wildfires are a constant threat. A Lake County judge declared that local authorities and the developer had not paid sufficient attention to the Guenoc Valley project’s vulnerability to fires.

The ruling “affirms a basic fact: Local governments and developers have a responsibility to take a hard look at projects that exacerbate wildfire risk and endanger our communities,” Bonta said. “We can’t keep making shortsighted land use decisions that will have impacts decades down the line. We must build responsibly.”

This week, Bonta took another step, issuing a set of guidelines that local authorities should follow in assessing the potential wildfire dangers of proposed developments.

It declares that it’s “imperative that local jurisdictions making decisions to approve new developments carefully consider wildfire impacts as part of the environmental review process, plan where best to place new development, and mitigate wildfire impacts to the extent feasible.”

Unveiling the policy in San Diego County, whose fast-growing inland communities are in constant peril from wildfire, Bonta said, “This is the new normal. When it comes to development, we can’t continue business as usual. We must adjust. We must change.”

Bonta’s guidelines don’t have the force of law, but they contain the implicit threat that his office will intervene if they are ignored, as it did with Guenoc Valley.

Avoiding housing in areas of extreme fire danger would seem to be common sense, but except for a narrow strip of land fronting the Pacific Ocean, the flatlands of the Central Valley and the deserts of Southern California, the state is mostly a tinderbox.

Moreover, Californians prefer, if they can, to live in single-family homes in scenic locales and therefore developers want to comply with those preferences, which is why they propose projects such as Guenoc Valley.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

COVID-19 School Closures Undermined Learning

Whether California’s schools should remain open or be closed was a hot issue when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging in 2020 and 2021.

Although medical authorities quickly concluded that children had a much smaller risk of being infected or experiencing severe effects if infected, California schools were mostly closed, in large measure because teachers and their powerful unions insisted on it.

With schools closed, local administrators scrambled to provide on-line classes, what became known as “zoom school,” but they were poor substitutes for the real thing — especially for English-learner students and those from poor families.

Those children — roughly 60% of the state’s nearly 6 million public school students — were already trailing their more privileged contemporaries academically when the pandemic hit. The closures made it worse, for obvious reasons.

They tended to lack internet access and proper equipment for on-line classes. Their parents were often compelled to work outside the home to make ends meet, so kids were often left to fend for themselves. Absenteeism from on-line classes was widespread.

Affluent parents, particularly those who could easily work from home during the pandemic, made certain that their kids attended on-line classes, helped them with their school work, formed informal collaboration groups and/or hired tutors. Thus, the ill effects of closures were mitigated. And, of course, private schools, such as the one Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids attend, either remained open or minimized closures.

For months, politicians from Newsom downward quarreled over how the schools should function and angry parents formed the core of a movement to recall him from office. Newsom survived the recall, but the educations of millions of kids did not, as new data confirm.

While the state Department of Education has not released 2022 academic test data that would allow comparisons with pre-pandemic results, individual school districts are doing so and the numbers from the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, are stunning.

About 72% of the district’s students are not meeting state standards in math and 58% are behind in English, essentially wiping out five years of progress that it had recorded prior to the pandemic.

“The pandemic deeply impacted the performance of our students,” LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho said. “Particularly kids who were at risk, in a fragile condition, prior to the pandemic, as we expected, were the ones who have lost the most ground.”

While the district released gross data, it did not break down the test results by ethnic or economic subgroups. The Los Angeles Times, however, gleaned the detail from a school board document marked “not for public release.”

Why the secrecy? Apparently it was to mask the particularly disturbing data about Black and Latino kids.

“About 81% of 11th-graders did not meet grade-level standards in math. About 83% of Black students, 78% of Latino students and 77% of economically disadvantaged students did not meet the math standards,” the Times reported.

We won’t know how the state as a whole fared until — and unless — the Department of Education finally releases 2022 complete “Smarter Balance” test results. But there’s no reason to believe that what happened — or, more accurately, what didn’t happen — in Los Angeles isn’t also true of other systems, particularly those with large numbers of at-risk students.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Can Superagencies crack California’s housing logjam?

An acute shortage of housing, particularly for low-income families that must devote much of their paltry incomes to rent, is clearly one of California’s most pressing and vexing issues.

The Legislature passes laws and appropriates billions of dollars and state officials rag on local governments to become more accommodating to development, but very little, if any, progress is made on closing the gap between supply and demand.

Everyone involved seems to be looking for the silver bullet solution, but no one has come up with it yet.

Several years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area’s civic and political leadership devised a new approach – a regional agency empowered to raise revenues that would jump-start much needed construction while protecting existing housing stocks and helping poor tenants remain in their homes as rents increased.

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, created by legislation, came into being just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it impeded the agency’s startup plans. A $10 billion regional bond issue for housing was being planned, but due to the economic turmoil of the pandemic, including widespread unemployment, its sponsors delayed action indefinitely.

The agency is just getting going again, using some seed money advanced by the state, and is resurrecting the $10 billion bond proposal in the nine Bay Area counties, possibly for the 2024 ballot. That would be enough, officials say, to produce and/or preserve 45,000 affordable housing units, assuming that it would leverage another $15 billion from other sources. But such a bond would require a two-thirds region-wide vote, which is by no means certain.

Simply put, the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority is still a work in progress. No one knows whether it will, or even could, make a significant dent in the region’s housing shortage.

Nevertheless, Los Angeles County leaders want to emulate the Bay Area experiment. They persuaded the Legislature, in the final hours of its session last month, to create the awkwardly named Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency with very similar powers, and also some limitations that could hamstring its effectiveness.

The agency will have a 21-member board composed of local officials, including all five county supervisors, and their appointees.

Essentially, the new agency could raise money with voter-approved parcel taxes on property, a tax on business gross receipts or a tax on property transfer documents and could also issue bonds. The revenues would mostly be given to the county’s cities to be spent on housing, although the agency could undertake some projects of its own.

However, it could play no role in zoning issues, could not acquire property by eminent domain (seizure) and is forbidden to build housing for the homeless. To gain legislative approval, Senate Bill 679 also was drafted with a requirement that any housing built or financed by the agency be considered public works subject to the state’s prevailing wage law, with larger projects required, in essence, to use only unionized labor.

While the Bay Area’s housing agency covers nine counties, the new one in Los Angeles is limited to just that county, which raises a question: Why is it needed, since the county government already has authority to do what the new entity would do?

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Newsom Calls GOP Governors “Bullies,” But What About Him?

Politicians who claim to have an elevated moral purpose risk being branded as hypocrites if they fail to live up to the standards they set for others.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom runs that risk as he denounces the Republican governors of other states, particularly Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, as “bullies” for their states’ policies on abortion, gay rights and other issues.

Newsom has run ads critical of the two governors and donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ challenger, Charlie Crist. At the very least, Newsom is raising his national political profile. But it could be the beginning of a presidential campaign, which he denies.

“People keep asking why I’m calling out DeSantis and these Republican governors,” Newsom tweeted late last month. “The answer is simple: I don’t like bullies.”

Newsom’s tweet contained his interview with ABC news, including a lengthy rant beginning with “I can’t take what’s going on in this country.”

“I can’t take what these governors are doing state after state affecting minorities, affecting vulnerable communities, threatening the Special Olympics with fines, going after the LGBTQ community, saying if you’ve been raped by your father you don’t have the right to express yourself and rights over your own body,” Newsom told ABC’s Matt Gutman.

“My entire life I don’t like bullies,” Newsom added. “I don’t like people who other other people. I don’t like people who demean other people and that’s being celebrated in American politics today and you got to call it out. DeSantis is the worst of it but Abbott and these other guys, they’re right there and forgive me, I’m naming them because we have to and I think people need to understand what’s going on in this country and there’s too much at stake.”

On the issues that Newsom cites, particularly abortion and LGBTQ rights, his criticism is more than warranted. But calling rival governors “bullies” is over the top. After all, they were duly elected to their positions, as was Newsom, and like him, probably will be re-elected this year. Their positions on these hot button issues would not fly in California, but they apparently do in their states.

That’s not bullying; it’s governing, which often means compelling people to do things they’d rather not do. Newsom has done a lot of it since becoming governor nearly four years ago, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was governing by decree.

Was Newsom being a bully or governing when he ordered thousands of small businesses to shut down to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus? Those affected, including more than 2 million workers who lost their jobs, might say he was being a bully, since larger businesses were often exempted.

Likewise, parents complained that Newsom arbitrarily closed schools and forced their children into “Zoom school” even though COVID-19’s threat to children was scant.

Many of California’s city officials have complained that Newsom is bullying them into building high-density housing that their constituents don’t want, threatening legal action or financial sanctions if they don’t comply. Newsom says the state must act aggressively to solve its housing shortage.

California gun owners complain constantly that Newsom and the Legislature impose nonsensical, harassing regulations on their constitutional right to bear arms.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters