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California Gov. Newsom bold maneuver saves his future political aspirations, leaves White House doors open

Just recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom publicly criticized former President Donald Trump about last month’s Florida meeting, during which the presumptive Republican presidential candidate offered to reverse environmental policies for campaign cash. What no one told Newsom is that Trump’s alleged action should be his least worry just when Californians are trapped in a never-ending labyrinth of skyrocketing prices, rising inflation, the migrant crisis, uncertainty over the massive budget deficit, and many other problems that bother California residents every day.

Serious challenges

The influx of immigrants at the southern border, which became increasingly evident early this year, appeared to be the sole issue that the state leadership needed to address. However, this was only the start of a downward spiral for the state Democratic leadership, as several other significant issues surfaced in the subsequent period. The house insurance crisis was further fueled by higher prices caused by April’s minimum wage hike for some businesses, culminating with the announcement of huge spending cuts in an effort to balance the budget deficit initially estimated to be more than $70 billion.

State budget revisions and tax hikes

Newsom’s announcement of the latest revised state budget sparked concerns among business circles in the Golden State, as it revealed that state lawmakers had implemented hidden tax rate hikes for certain businesses. But Newsom also has to worry about his personal future political aspirations since a California teacher union, one of Newsom’s closest allies during the years, decided to turn against him and even threatened to file a lawsuit as a result of the massive education spending cuts, which are part of the proposed budget.

Educators press Newsom

The California Teachers Association, one of the biggest teachers unions in the country, has intensified its campaign against Governor Gavin Newsom by launching TV commercials despite being one of Newsom’s most loyal allies during the years. The  ads criticized him for reducing education funding due to a significant budget deficit. Last Tuesday, the union debuted a commercial that included a clip of Newsom from 2021, where he pledged to prevent any regression in education. The ad was scheduled to start airing towards the end of that week.

“Tell lawmakers and Governor Newsom to pass a state budget that protects public schools for our students and communities,” the union’s ad urges, after ticking through a bleak picture of crowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and cutbacks on nurses and counselors.

Long-term ally, huge spending cuts in education

The 310,000-member union, a powerful player in Democratic circles and a consistent supporter of Governor Gavin Newsom, has previously backed his gubernatorial campaigns, supported him during a recall attempt, and contributed to a mental health initiative he promoted. Last week, it launched a heavy advertising attack that put Newsom in an unusual position. Newsom, anticipated to run for president in 2028, faced immediate and huge challenge.

Governor Newsom has justified his reduced budget proposal as the most sensible solution to overcome two back-to-back $28 billion budget deficits, despite recognizing the harshness of the cuts. To prevent withdrawing over $8 billion from educational budgets, he has proposed a complex financial strategy that temporarily preserves funding for education but will decrease the future guaranteed funds for schools by almost $12 billion.

California Teachers Association launched heavy advertising attack that put Newsom in an unusual position forcing him to accept their proposal
Money, credit: Unsplash

Growing concerns

The public criticism of Governor Newsom’s approach to managing what some say is the largest budget deficit in California’s history has also affected other longtime supporters, such as Planned Parenthood and the influential Service Employees International Union California. The latter has even organized a rally at the Capitol to protest the budget cuts. The teachers union presents the governor’s actions as a pressing concern. However, the California Teachers Association’s stance also focuses on opposing what it views as a risky precedent, given California’s history of fluctuating dramatically between budget deficits and surpluses.

Lawsuit threats

The union has also threatened to take legal action against the state, a strategy it has used before in disputes over education funding with other governors. Although any lawsuit wouldn’t be settled by the time the state budget is due in June, the labor group might see it as beneficial to prevent future governors from using the same financial tactics as Newsom to handle drops in revenue.

“This is a clear violation of the Constitution,” CTA President David Goldberg said at a Friday news conference. “When you have clear violations of the Constitution, often you go to legal remedies, so that is definitely one of the tools in our toolbox.”

The impartial Legislative Analyst’s Office has also cautioned that the proposal could establish a troubling precedent, labeling it “bad fiscal policy.” When questioned about this critique earlier in the month, Newsom stood by his plan, arguing that it was designed to protect fundamental education programs.

The solution

Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and the California Teachers Association have reached an agreement about the state education budget after the CTA paid for a TV attack ad on the governor. According to the Governor’s Office, California’s students, educators and families will not be impacted by cuts to the classroom this year.

“This agreement is a smart and balanced policy solution that incorporates feedback from California’s educators,” Newsom said in a statement. “Similar to the proposal in our revised budget, the agreement accomplishes the administration’s primary goals – no cuts to schools in the immediate and long-term future while ensuring budget neutrality. Working together, we are protecting California’s students, families, and educators and putting the state on a fiscally sound and sustainable path.”

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