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Fact-Check: Gov. Newsom's State Of The State Address

Gov, Gavin Newsom stands at a lectern with the California state seal in a dark suit and tie. Behind him are state and U.S. flags.
Gov. Gavin Newsom gives the 2022 State of the State speech from Sacramento on March 8, 2022.
(Andrew Nixon
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Watch a replay of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's 2022 State of the State address below, and read an annotated transcript that includes corrections, clarifications and context from the CalMatters reporting team.

Good evening everybody. Good evening everybody. Good evening. Thank you everybody. Thank you.

Well, Madam Lieutenant Governor, it's nice to be able to say this on International Women's Day, it's great to be able to say, thank you Madam Lieutenant Governor for that introduction.

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Speaker Rendon and Pro Tem Atkins, thank you as always for being here.

And to members of the Legislature and other state officials, thank you for joining us this evening.

And of course to my remarkable wife, Jennifer, the First Partner of the State of California. Thank you for not only being the heart of our family, and for everything you do for the people of California.

It goes without saying, given the state of our world, I don’t imagine there are many people outside these walls waiting on the words that will be said here tonight.

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    • Interesting oratorical approach to emphasize how unimportant your speech is.
  • — Ben Christopher

But it’s important, as the rabbi said, for us to come together, nonetheless.

Not just to mark how far we’ve come in the fight against COVID, but also to reaffirm our commitment to democratic institutions.

    • If you want to relive the last two years of California's fight against COVID, check out CalMatters' timeline.
  • — Richard Procter

As the people of Ukraine continue to come under assault, 2 million by the way, 2 million people already displaced from their homes, we take strength from their contagious courage as well as their willingness to fight for their freedom.

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So tonight is a moment, a moment to reflect not just on what's happening overseas but it's a moment to reflect on what it means to live in a society where elected leaders still settle our disagreements by and large with civility and compromise.

And how we derive strength from a government that reflects the people we represent. Just think about it.

Our Speaker, son of working-class parents and grandson of Mexican immigrants, worked his way through California’s public education system, earning a Ph.D. from UC Riverside. Now, committed to ensuring every child has access to early learning.

Our Pro Tem, born in poverty in Virginia, she came to California and became a champion for housing and equal rights for all. The first openly-gay woman to lead both the Assembly and the state Senate.

Our Chief Justice, public school graduate, descendant of migrant farmworkers, speaking out consistently against income inequality and tackling the cost of justice for people in poverty.

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And take our constitutional officers here tonight -- think about this -- they include the daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper, an immigrant from the Philippines, the daughter of parents born in China and Greece, one raised by a teacher from Panama, and the proud son of undocumented Mexican immigrants.

    • Newsom has made the elevation of under-represented Californians to positions of power and influence a hallmark of his governorship. Sen. Alex Padilla, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Supreme Court Justice Martin Jenkins are all demographic firsts and Newsom appointees.
  • — Ben Christopher

Thank you all for your remarkable service to our state.

California does democracy like nowhere else in the world. No other place offers opportunity to so many from so many different backgrounds. But we can't take our democracy for granted.

Authoritarian and illiberal impulses aren't just rising overseas. They’ve been echoing here at home for some time. We might not have strongmen quite literally waging war in our country, we are plagued by agents of a national anger machine, fueling division, weaponizing grievance.

    • Newsom ran to an easy victory in both 2018 and during last year’s recall by presenting himself as the antidote to Donald Trump and “Trumpism.” He doesn’t say the “T” word in this speech, but it’s still a contrast he’s only too happy to invoke. 
  • — Ben Christopher

Powerful forces and loud voices –- stoking fear and seeking to divide us, weakening the institutions of our democracy.

Counting on complacency to erode voting rights, scapegoating vulnerable minorities.

Conjuring conspiracies and promoting otherness.

Actively exploiting the “anger of the anxious.

Anger, by the way, that finds a home when people feel understandably disconnected from each other and our collective future -- when that future doesn’t look as bright as the past -- making them more susceptible to the siren calls of those trying to tear us apart.

Foundationally, this is a threat we must all face, together, and prove there's a better way – a California Way – forward.

The California Way.

The California Way means rejecting old binaries and finding new solutions to big problems.

Touting climate; giving Californians gas money?

Take for example, the speaker was talking about, climate policy. California has no peers.

    • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon might disagree with that statement: “I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore” on climate, he said in November.
  • — Emily Hoeven

For years, we’ve set the rules, and others have followed. But over time, we’ve learned we can’t solve big problems like climate change situationally, with short-term thinking.

    • One of the state’s landmark programs may not be working that well. Experts warned lawmakers that the market-based cap-and-trade program is unlikely to achieve 2030 greenhouse gas targets.
  • — Rachel Becker

    • The University of California is a research juggernaut, including in climate change. Newsom is seeking an additional $185 million in climate change research, technology development and workforce development for the UC.
  • — Mikhail Zinshteyn

Look, no one’s naive about the moment we're living in with high gas prices. And the geopolitical uncertainty that's fueling them.

In January, we proposed a pause to the gas tax increase.

    • The state gas tax has been inching up every year since 2017 when the Legislature passed a $5 billion per year transportation funding bill. Republicans and low tax advocates put a repeal on the ballot the following year, but voters overwhelmingly shot it down.
  • — Ben Christopher

But now, it’s clear we have to go farther.

And that's why – working with legislative leadership – I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians to address rising gas prices.

    • Details are still sparse on this proposal — the only fresh one in tonight’s speech. What we know so far: This will be a general tax rebate, not tied to a person’s gas spending, but targeted at car owners.
  • — Ben Christopher

But I want to make this clear. At a time when we’ve been heating and burning up, one thing 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, and more wildfire.

What more evidence, what more evidence do you need than our own state?

Just think about this. In the past few years, we’ve seen whole communities nearly wiped off the map.

Greenville. Paradise. Grizzly Flats.

How many more are we willing to sacrifice?

We need to be fighting polluters, not bolstering them. And in the process of doing so, freeing us once and for all from the grasp of petro-dictators.

  • — Rachel Becker

But this conversation can’t just be about supply, can't just be about oil supply. Daily life still demands too much fossil fuel.

That too has to change.

Underscoring the importance of accelerating California’s leadership in clean technology, this is not just a national security and an environmental justice imperative – clean energy is this generation's greatest economic opportunity.

    • This speaks to an increasingly tender sore point within the California Democratic Party between environmentalists and labor. Exhibit A: This weekend’s party convention.
  • — Ben Christopher

A perfect example by the way, a perfect example of that is our dominance in electric vehicle sales and manufacturing.

It was, by the way, California policies that created this market.

Now, we have the opportunity to extend this leadership, to secure a critical component of the supply chain for batteries, by tapping one of the world’s largest lithium reserves — right here in California. In Imperial Valley. And you consider this, our nation-leading climate investments — some $38 billion — will ensure that other innovations will surely 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.

That’s the California Way.

Touting the economy; leaving no one behind?

Now, when it comes to the economy, California's unmatched.

We dominate. We dominate in research, innovation, entrepreneurialism, venture capital – and remain the world’s fifth largest economy. Our GDP growth, our GDP growth has consistently outpaced not only the rest of the nation – but most other large, western democracies. Think about this. In December alone, 25 percent of America's jobs were created right here in California. A million new jobs just in the last 12 months. More new business starts during the worst of the pandemic than Texas and Florida combined.

    • When it comes to getting employment back to pre-pandemic levels, California was still lagging the nation in December, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. 
  • — Grace Gedye

But you know what makes us so different from those states – besides the freedom of a woman's right to choose?

    • With abortion rights hanging by a thread in nearly two dozen states, Newsom and top Democratic lawmakers want to make California a “sanctuary” for reproductive rights and the 1.4 million women within driving distance of the state.
  • — Kristen Hwang

What makes us different is as our businesses grow, we don’t leave our workers behind.

Just consider what we did last year for the middle class here in our state, we sent $12 billion back – the largest state tax rebate in American history. 

We didn’t stop there. We didn't stop there.

We raised the minimum wage.

We increased paid sick leave.

We provided more paid family leave.

We expanded child care to help working parents.

    • Newsom signed legislation last year to add 200,000 new child care slots for working families by the 2025-26 school year. The state promised that by 2022-23 more than half of those subsidized slots, about 145,000, will come online. 
  • – Elizabeth Aguilera

And this year, with your support, we will do something no other state in America has done – provide Health For All, regardless of immigration status.

    • Close to 1 million undocumented people could benefit from the state’s plans to expand Medi-Cal. But hundreds of thousands of others who earn above the Medi-Cal income limit may still be locked out of coverage.
  • — Ana B. Ibarra

That’s the California Way.

  • Single-payer health care, which would have eliminated out-of-pocket medical costs for all Californians by levying higher taxes, died without a vote earlier this year. Newsom distanced himself from this campaign promise, instead focusing on expanding Medi-Cal.
    — Kristen Hwang

Touting health; from pandemic to endemic?

And speaking of not leaving people behind, no state, no state took bolder steps to protect public health and human life over the last two years.

Our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives. Our mask mandates, our mask mandates saved lives. Your choices saved lives. California experienced far lower COVID death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio. Fewer than Florida - 35 percent fewer, to be exact.

  • — Kristen Hwang

But mindful, even with three quarters of Californians being fully vaccinated, we're mindful that we cannot let our guard down.

    • More than 83% of Californians are fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19, but booster shot uptake has lagged far behind. In some counties, fewer than 25% of those eligible have been boosted.
  • — Kristen Hwang

  • Key Democrats in the Legislature are pushing further with a slate of vaccine-related bills that mandate the shots for all kids and workers in the state and aim to crack down on misinformation about the vaccine online and among doctors.
    – Elizabeth Aguilera

That's why just last month, we put out our SMARTER Plan – the nation’s first blueprint to stay ahead of future variants, and seasonal surges.

    • The state’s new endemic plan sets goals like stockpiling 75 million masks, bringing in 30 million over-the-counter tests and increasing the state’s health workforce by at least another 3,000 if there’s another surge.
  • — Ana B. Ibarra

And I just want to thank you. I want to take a moment to thank all of you. To thank members of this Legislature for all you did these past two years to help keep us safe.

Touting remedies to homelessness; solutions have been elusive

But there’s another crisis all too familiar, referenced just a moment ago. And that's the crisis of homelessness, which we know has worsened over the last decade, not only here in California, but across the nation.

    • The last time California tallied its homeless population in 2020, it found at least 161,000 people without a roof over their heads on any given night. That count was recently repeated for the first time since COVID-19, and is expected to yield higher numbers.
  • — Manuela Tobias

Just a few years ago, California lacked any comprehensive strategy. No accountability, and no meaningful state resources to solve the problem. But that’s all changed.

    • Affordable housing and homelessness have suffered from decades of disinvestment, leaving lawmakers scrambling to catch up. Coordination remains an issue, though. The State Auditor’s office blasted the state for its slow distribution of federal COVID-19 homelessness dollars as recently as August.
  • — Manuela Tobias

In just the past three years, we not only have a comprehensive plan, we're also requiring new accountability, and providing unprecedented investments for cities and counties on the front lines.

And while we've moved a record 58,000 people off the streets, 58,000, off the streets, since the beginning of the pandemic, we recognize, we all recognize, we have more work to do – particularly to address what’s happening on our sidewalks, reaching people who need help the most.

Those with schizophrenia spectrum and psychosis disorders, many self-medicating with drugs or alcohol addictions.

    • Interesting that the focus on mental health in this speech is limited to this discussion of homelessness. A much broader mental health crisis is brewing, especially among young people.
  • — Jocelyn Wiener

And that’s precisely what our encampment resolution grants, and our new Care Court, seek to address.

    • The governor last week unveiled a proposal that would compel people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders into treatment. Newsom’s ambitious proposal would still require legislative approval – and hefty state spending to meet the needs identified by experts on the ground
  • — Manuela Tobias

Getting people off the streets, out of tents and into housing and treatment is essential, clearly essential, to making our streets safe for everyone.

    • Civil rights groups are already raising some concerns about the Care Court proposal, saying people in need of mental health treatment often can’t get it.
  • — Jocelyn Wiener

But public safety certainly isn’t just about homelessness.

Crime: What was said and left unsaid

Bobby Kennedy, just six weeks before he was killed by an assassin’s bullet, reminded us that the health of a society depends on the ability of people to walk their own streets, in safety. Not to be frightened into isolation.

“A nation,” he said, “which surrenders to crime -– whether by indifference or heavy-handed repression, is a society which has resigned itself to failure.”

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 crimes. We're bolstering the Attorney General’s Office, prosecuting organized theft rings, and getting illegal guns off our streets.

    • Newsom's budget proposal seeks $179 million to reduce crime, particularly organized retail thefts. The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently said Newsom’s crime plan lacked clear objectives
  • — Byrhonda Lyons

But we’re also, we're also investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new programs to tackle the root causes of crime, doubling down on proven violence prevention programs.

That is the California Way.

  • That’s all on criminal justice issues? It’s worth noting that Newsom is taking a completely different approach than President Joe Biden took during last week’s State of the Union. Biden doubled down on funding the police. Newsom hasn’t mentioned police.
    – Byrhonda Lyons

Touting "transformational" education reform

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, quite literally, you can't make this up, where they're banning books, where you can sue your history teacher, for teaching history and where you can’t even say the word "gay."

    • This is Newsom’s third unfavorable reference to to Florida in this speech. On Tuesday, the Florida Senate passed a law restricting the ability of schools to teach students about sexual orientation and gender — what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay bill.”
  • — Ben Christopher

I’m talking about a real transformation of our public education system, like we’re doing right here in the state California.

By creating choices — real choices — for parents and unprecedented support for their kids.

    • Newsom’s main contenders in the failed 2021 recall supported “school choice” measures like tuition vouchers. Months before the start of the pandemic, Newsom signed into law a controversial bill that would restrict charter schools.
  • — Joe Hong

A whole new grade -- transitional kindergarten for all, nine hours, nine hours of enrichment a day with true universal before- and after-school programs. Expanded summer school. Universal, nutritious meals, millions of new child savings account and free community college.

    • The 2021-22 state budget included $1.8 billion for summer school and before and after-school programs. A record number of students enrolled in summer school in 2021, but school administrators have struggled to staff before and after-school programs due to teacher shortages.
  • — Joe Hong

That’s the California Way.

Look, I think all of us here can at least here agree to this, people have always looked to California for inspiration.

And now, in the midst of so much turmoil with stacking of stresses and dramatic social and economic change, California is doing what we have done for generations, lighting out the territory ahead of the rest, expanding the horizon of what’s possible.

We know that government cannot be the entire solution, but we also know that government has always been part of the solution.

By creating a platform for people, and the private sector, to thrive.

And as Friedman said –- we have a formula, a formula for success setting rules for risk-taking, not recklessness.

Infrastructure, research and development, investing in our conveyor belt for talent – the finest system of higher education anywhere in the world, our CSUs, UCs and community colleges. And ensuring society provides a hand up when people need help, maintaining , maintaining our pro-immigrant policies and welcoming refugees from around the world.

    • Last year Newsom and state lawmakers approved $47.1 billion in higher-education spending, a banner year for college and financial aid funding — including a down payment on needed student housing. Newsom’s budget this year seeks to make good on some of last year’s unfunded promises, including creating more slots for Californians at the UC and CSU while also expanding the state’s financial aid offerings.
  • — Mikhail Zinshteyn

Those are all California values.

Embracing diversity, but also seeking common ground. Pursuing greater connectedness.

Not exploiting division, with performative politics, and memes of the moment but by unifying towards common purpose.

Inviting more people with diverse perspectives, from different backgrounds – “to strive, to seek, to find, to not yield” – all into the fight for a better California.

Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for the privilege of your time tonight.

What questions do you have about Southern California?