California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles on Jan. 3, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Although he denied it, it’s obvious Gov. Gavin Newsom has been positioning himself as the top contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination should President Joe Biden pull out. The high point of those hopes was when Mr. Newsom garnered publicity during his week-long trip to communist China and met with dictator Xi Jinping, which I covered
in the Epoch Times on Oct. 27 in, “Gov. Newsom Embarrasses California in Meeting Dictator Xi in China.”
Then Mr. Newsom hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, his home town, which I covered
in, “Biden, Xi Agreement Will Not Stop Spiking Fentanyl Deaths” on Nov. 16. I quoted the San Francisco Standard article reporting, “Biden called Newsom ‘one hell of a governor,’ adding that one day the California statesman could have the job ‘I’m looking for,’” meaning Mr. Biden’s reelection bid.
It was downhill from there. On the PredictIt betting
site for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, the odds went from 68 cents for Mr. Biden to 24 cents for Mr. Newsom on Nov. 14, to 74 cents and 14 cents, respectively, on Jan. 9. Here’s a screenshot:
(Predictit.org/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
A key blow hit on Dec. 7 when the Legislative Analyst’s Office released
“The 2024‑25 Budget California’s Fiscal Outlook,” forecasting a $68 billion deficit. “Largely as a result of a severe revenue decline in 2022‑23, the state faces a serious budget deficit,” it found.
That meant the budget crisis will consume Mr. Newsom at least through the June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget. But nowadays, the official budget is incomplete and is followed by “trailer bills” for many items. That will take Mr. Newsom through the primary season, and up even toward the Aug. 19 to 22 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where, should Mr. Biden drop out late, a replacement would be chosen.
California Tax Pain
A big problem for Mr. Newsom remains California’s reputation for imposing the highest taxes in the country. On Jan. 1, those taxes jumped even higher from Senate Bill 951
, which he signed in 2022. Millionaires’ top tax rate moved from 13.3 percent, already the highest in the nation, to 14.4 percent.
But the worst hit was to the middle class. For incomes between $61,214 and $312,686, the rate went from 9.3 percent to 10.4 percent. That means, according
to the Wall Street Journal, the middle class in 2024 is paying “more than millionaires in almost every state save New York, New Jersey and Hawaii.”
A signal even Democrats are fed up with high taxes came from Colorado on Nov. 7. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic Legislature backed a tax increase measure placed on the ballot. It lost
decisively, 59 percent to 41 percent. Once a Republican state, Colorado now is Democratic, thanks largely to so many Californians moving there. They have pushed the state left on many issues, such as abortion. But the last thing they want is to suffer the high taxes that exiled them to the Rocky Mountain State from the Golden State.
On the new budget, Mr. Newsom will face implacable insistence by his Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature—more than two-thirds in each house—that much of that $68 billion deficit be covered with yet more tax increases. If that happens, those higher taxes likely never will be collected because they will drive even more taxpayers from the state.
A key will be what Mr. Newsom proposes in his budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which he will release this week. Any tax increase proposals likely will dominate the news. As Californians groan, “Not more tax increases!” And the national headlines dampen any Newsom for President hopes that remain.
Raising taxes to record highs in a time of inflation is not a recipe for victory.
The state’s other endemic problems, especially homelessness and the high cost of housing, also will remain in the headlines. To deal with homelessness, last October Mr. Newsom and the Legislature put on the March 5 ballot Proposition 1, a “$6.38 billion bond ... to build more than 11,150 new behavioral health beds and housing and 26,700 outpatient treatment slots,” according
to his office.
He enthused at the time, “These reforms, and this new investment in behavioral health housing, will help California make good on promises made decades ago. We see the signs of our broken system every day—too many Californians suffering from mental health needs or substance use disorders and unable to get support or care they need. This will prioritize getting people off the streets, out of tents and into treatment.”
The whole country, indeed the whole world, on the news too often sees “the signs of our broken system every day” with videos of the homelessness clogging the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities.
But I long have said bonds are just delayed tax increases. The opposition statement
in the ballot pamphlet sent to voters reads, “Vote NO because: PROP. 1 WILL COST TAXPAYERS MORE THAN $10 BILLION. Prop. 1 puts taxpayers on the hook for DECADES to pay back new bonds. This isn’t ‘free money!’ It’s credit card borrowing from Wall Street.”
However the bond vote plays out on March 5, this is just more bad publicity painting the governor as a serial tax-increaser.
As to housing, Mr. Newsom also in October signed
a package of 56 bills to encourage housing construction and open existing dwellings to more occupants. But that still isn’t enough. The Los Angeles Times headlined
on Nov. 16, “Southern California home values near record despite the high cost of borrowing.”
On Dec. 7, the Public Policy Institute of California reported
, “One million California renters are behind on their rent payments, and almost 150,00 of them believe that it is very or somewhat likely they will face eviction in the next two months, according to recent Census Bureau surveys
. As concerning as these numbers are, they are an improvement from the height of the pandemic, when 1.5 million California renters were behind on rent. Still, rents are increasing across the state.”
These increases are occurring even as the state continues to lose population. U.S. Census data shows the state population dropped
another 75,000 in 2023. Although the loss was less than the 104,000 drop in 2022.
Conclusion: Mr. Newsom Will Look to 2028
Another factor is former President Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. California’s plight would give Mr. Trump too much ammunition for attacks on Mr. Newsom.
The former president also likes to slap labels on opponents: Crooked Hillary (Clinton), Lyin’ Ted (Cruz), Ron Desanctimonious (DeSantis). And the nicknames stick. So far, Mr. Newsom has avoided that. But he doesn’t want a negative moniker for his inevitable 2028 run for president.
He also leaves office in January 2027, allowing time to let the state stabilize. Perhaps the economy will be better and the budget deficit will vanish. Out of office, he could run full time for president in 2028. If Mr. Trump wins in 2024, term limits will keep him off the ballot in 2028.
Presidential hopes flutter like butterflies in the minds of almost all American governors and U.S. senators. But in the end, reality intrudes, and plans must be forgotten or delayed. That reality now is hatching for Mr. Newsom.