State Watch

California Gov. Newsom takes aim at Trump — and his predecessor’s legacy

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) took aim at President Trump Tuesday for what he called the “political theater” of a wall at the southern border, embracing the role of opposition leader just a month after he took over the governorship of the nation’s largest state.
But in his first State of the State address, Newsom signaled he will also break from some of the legacies of his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, who pushed ambitious infrastructure projects like a massive high-speed rail line and new water tunnels.
Newsom said Monday he would redeploy the nearly 400 California National Guard troops who had been sent to the border with Mexico at Trump’s request. 
A third of those troops will help California’s top fire-fighting agency prepare for the coming fire season. Another third will work to counter illegal cannabis farms in state forests. And a third will deploy to existing border checkpoints to hunt for drugs.
“A wall that stretches thousands and thousands of miles through the wilderness will do nothing to stop this threat,” Newsom said Tuesday. “The answer to the White House, with all due respect: No more division, no more xenophobia and no more nativism.”
Newsom said Trump’s State of the Union address offered “a vision of an America fundamentally at odds with California values.”
“He described a country where inequality doesn’t seem to be a problem, where climate change doesn’t exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families seeking asylum at the border,” Newsom said. “The border emergency is nothing but a manufactured crisis and California will not be part of this political theater.”
Newsom also took aim at Trump’s efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, which he said had cost California residents through increased health care premiums. 
“This is just what we feared, and respectfully, it’s just what they wanted,” Newsom said. “That’s why, when it comes to the individual mandate, California must act where Washington failed.”
But Newsom signaled a break, too, with two major pillars of his predecessor’s legacy. He used his address to ask legislators to scale back plans for a high-speed rail project that would eventually connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.
That project, initially approved by voters in 2008, has been beset by construction delays and cost overruns.
Newsom said the state should focus on finishing a segment of the rail line that stretches only between Merced and Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley.
“Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were,” Newsom said. “We’ll connect the revitalized Central Valley to other parts of the state, and continue to push for more federal funding and private dollars. But let’s get something done once and for all.”
And Newsom said he would scale back a project that would have funneled water from the Sacramento River to the Central Valley through two massive tunnels. The $15 billion plan, another prime Brown initiative, has experienced its own delays as project coordinators struggle to obtain necessary permits.
“I do not support the water fix as currently configured. Meaning I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel,” Newsom said. “The status quo is not an option.”
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