Ritu Jha-

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his annual State Address on Tuesday, March 8 in Sacramento. In his 20-minute speech, Newsom highlighted a few facets of California’s better performance over other states, in the fields of innovation, job creation, climate initiatives and managing the Covid-19 crisis. He also highlighted the state’s work to rehabilitate the homeless and curb crime.

While acknowledging rising gas prices, Newsom said that US climate investments – pegged at $38 billion – will “ensure” that other innovations will follow. “Not by re-creating the 20th century by extracting more oil, but by extracting new ideas, drilling for new talent, by running our economy on a carbon-free engine,” he said.

In September 2020, Newsom issued an executive order directing the state to require, by 2035, that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles and halt all in-state oil drilling by 2045.

“In January 2022, we had proposed to pause the gas tax increase. Now, it’s clear that we must go further. Working with the legislative leadership, I will be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians, to address rising gas prices,” Newsom said.

“What we cannot do is repeat the mistakes of the past, by embracing polluters. Drilling even more oil, which only leads to even more extreme weather, more extreme drought, more wildfire, has to stop,” Newsom emphasized.

It was a statement made in the face of California facing the highest gas price, at $7.

The U.S. gets 5% to 10% of its crude oil and refined products from Russia, a fairly small share that could probably be replaced by other sources if Russian supply was to be cut off, said Jacques Rousseau, managing director at Clearview Energy Partners.

Reacting to Gov. Newsom’s speech, Amar Shergill, California Democratic party progressive caucus chairperson told Indica, “It was good to see the Governor take time to acknowledge our state’s success in creating jobs and extending healthcare to all immigrants. I also look forward to reviewing his plan to provide relief for high gas prices. However, there are still too many Californians struggling with the cost of healthcare and housing. We need progressive legislation to even the playing field.”

Republican Ritesh Tandon, a US Congressional Candidate, had a completely different view on Newsom’s claim that the Californian economy remains ‘unmatched’; “the world’s fifth-largest economy”, in his words. “In December alone, 25 percent of American jobs were created right here in California. A million new jobs in the last 12 months. More new business was started here during the worst phase of the pandemic than Texas and Florida combined,” Newsom had said. Tandon told Indica that California today has America’s highest unemployment rate, the highest gas price and holds more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless population.

Tandon pointed out that crime is on a surge, schools are failing and life-long Californians are moving to states where they can afford to live in 2022. He alleged that Newsom has failed to build new water storage in a historic drought, lied about wildfire prevention, and broke his promise to build 3.5 million new housing units. “California used to be a place where people believed anything was possible, but Newsom and the Democrats’ oppressive one-party rule has turned our state into – as Newsom said himself – a third-world country,” Tandon said, “Instead of warmed-over rhetoric, Californians deserve to hear how Newsom plans to turn the state around.”

On the issue of homelessness and the drug and alcohol addiction issues that California seems to be facing today, Newsom acknowledged these “massive problems”, but said that the state now has a “comprehensive strategy”, accountability and “meaningful state resources” to solve the problems. “We moved a record 58,000 people off the streets since the beginning of the pandemic, but we recognize we have more to do – particularly to address what’s happening on our sidewalks, reaching out to people who need the help the most. Those with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, and drug or alcohol addicts, now have our encampment resolution grants and our new CARE Court,” Newsom said.

“Getting people off the streets, out of tents, and into housing and treatment is essential to making our streets safe for everyone, but public safety certainly isn’t just about homelessness. Our approach is to be neither indifferent to the realities of the present day, nor revert to heavy-handed policies that have marked the failures of the past. We’re funding local law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and solve more crime, bolstering the Attorney General’s Office, prosecuting organized theft rings and getting illegal guns off the streets,” Newsom said.

“We are also investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new programs to tackle the root causes of crime, doubling down on proven violence-prevention programs,” the Governor said, “Of course, to tackle any root cause, we need to talk about education. And I’m not talking about that version of education ‘reform’ being promoted in some states, where they’re banning books, where you can sue your history teacher for teaching history, and where you can’t say the word ‘gay’.”