SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pledged to use the state’s record-breaking $300 billion budget, including an unprecedented nearly $100 billion surplus, to “future proof” the state from the impacts of a volatile midterm election cycle that he fears will undermine abortion access, gun safety and privacy protections across the country.
The first-term governor of the nation’s most populous state — and a potential Democratic presidential candidate — used his budget presentation on Friday to prop up his progressive credentials while attacking his rivals in conservative states.
He trumpeted major increases in spending on health care, education, child care and the environment while also pledging to spend $125 million to make it easier for women to get abortions in California, including those from other states.
With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to possibly overturn Roe v. Wade next month, Newsom pointed to a sign displaying California’s lower COVID-19 death rate compared to the Republican-led states of Florida, Texas and Arizona, all of which are expected to further restrict or outlaw abortions if the court overturns Roe.
Newsom instituted the nation’s first statewide coronavirus stay-home order and many credit his aggressive actions throughout the pandemic with saving lives. Critics say he overreached and worsened the economic harm.
“If you’re pro-life, how the hell is this possible?” Newsom said of the higher death rates in the three states that used a more hands-off approach during the pandemic. “Spare me their mantra on being pro-life. They don’t deserve that status.”
The sign at Newsom’s presentation referred to how California compared to “the most populous states.” Texas is No. 2, followed by Florida. But Arizona is No. 14. The No. 4 state is Democratic-led, strongly in favor of abortion rights New York, whose COVID death rate is higher than Texas and comparable to Florida.
Bryan Griffin, deputy press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, disputed Newsom’s assertion, arguing that in “an appropriately adjusted format” Florida has fared about as well as California with COVID “but still preserved the personal liberties of its citizens and didn’t destroy a litany of small businesses in the process.”
California’s projected $97.5 billion budget surplus is unlike anything seen before at the state level and is fueled by soaring tax revenue. It is larger than the entire operating budgets of nearly every other state.
The unceasing flow of tax money prompted California Republicans — who don’t have enough numbers in the state Legislature to have much influence — to complain about high taxes reducing quality of life.
“He did not propose any permanent tax relief to deal with a worsening affordability crisis exacerbated by his policies,” said Republican Vince Fong,…