SAN FRANCISCO — Newly minted California Gov. Gavin Newsom doubled down Tuesday on his mission to resist White House policies that he says run counter to the interests of his state — and in his view, the nation.
“The answer to the White House is, no more division and no more xenophobia,” Newsom, 51, told lawmakers during his first State of the State address in Sacramento.
During his speech, Newsom confirmed news that he was ordering National Guard troops off border patrol detail and redeploying most of the 360 personnel to wildfire and drug-gang duty.
The withdrawal echoes the move by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who a week ago cut roughly 90 percent of the 118 National Guardsmen assigned to the border.
Newsom’s decision to take a similar stand is a rebuke to both President Donald Trump, who has warned about caravans of migrants heading to the border, and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who issued the order. National Guard troops are paid with federal funds but are under state control.
Newsom derided Trump’s recent State of the Union speech as rife with “fear mongering” about a “so-called border emergency.”
He added that border crossings are currently the lowest they’ve been since 1971, and cited studies indicating that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens.
“This border emergency is a manufactured crisis,” Newsom said to a standing ovation. “California will not be part of this political theater.”
Newsom also took issue with a number of other White House positions, including an effort to kill the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
“California must act where Washington has failed,” Newsom said, adding that he aims to increase subsidies and reimbursement rates, as well as extend healthcare coverage for anyone up to 26 years old “regardless of their immigration status.”
At one point, Newsom thanked Trump — and he meant it. The governor was alluding to Trump’s State of the Union comments about the need to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.
“I hope (Trump) takes the lead of California in the process,” Newsom said, a reference to his executive order of a month ago proposing that the state be able to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers on behalf of some 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, as well as various state agencies that regularly buy drugs.
California, home to some of the world’s top tech companies, set a precedent by establishing a new state privacy act that requires companies such as Google and Facebook to divulge to residents how and where their data is being used.
Newsom said he was now convening a team to look into the creation of a new law requiring technology giants to kick back some of their billions in earnings in the form of a Data Dividend for Californians.
The other big topics on Newsom’s agenda Tuesday were California’s long-derided high-speed rail (Newsom doesn’t want a Los Angeles to San Francisco run but supports developing such a train in the fertile Central Valley, whose residents deal with high levels of pollution and long commute times); education spending (the state currently ranks near the bottom nationally on spending per student); and the state’s newly bankrupt utility, Pacific Gas & Electric.
Of PG&E, Newsom said a team of attorneys was spending the next two months developing a strategy to return the utility to fiscal health, but he urged lawmakers not to take their eyes off the state’s ambitious clean energy goals.
Among them is the newly announced nation-leading mission of requiring rooftop solar panels for all new single-family homes and low-rise multi-family buildings starting in 2020.
“We must map out a longer term energy framework, so the cost of climate change doesn’t fall on those least able to afford it,” Newsom said.
California’s lack of affordable housing also promises to be a big focus for the state’s 40th governor.
That issue is increasingly familiar to residents of urban centers around the country, and making a dent in the problem here would be one way for Newsom to build a case for higher political office — even if candidate Newsom told USA TODAY last fall that his “train stops in Sacramento.”
At Newsom’s urging, the state recently sued the southern California beach haven of Huntington Beach, arguing that the city is not making efforts to make way for affordable housing in its community.
Newsom said he was going to meet with mayors soon to discuss the problem. And while he said he was not poised to sue every city that resisted development, he was “not going to preside over neglect any longer.”
The governor said it was incumbent upon state and local officials to work hand in hand to solve not just affordable housing but also homelessness; the state is home to some 130,000 homeless, about a quarter of the nation’s homeless population.
“Our homeless crisis is becoming a public health crisis,” Newsom warned. “We have seen typhus in Los Angeles, a medieval disease in California in 2019. I know mayors are working hard, but we have to have their backs. They cannot do it alone.”
Follow USA TODAY national correspondent @marcodellacava