OPINION: Will California’s Gavin Newsom Continue Jerry Brown’s Legacy?

Lloyd Billingsley Policy Fellow, Independent Institute
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California has a new governor, and people across the nation may wonder whether Gavin Newsom will govern in the style of his predecessor Jerry Brown. After all, there is an extended family connection.

In 1943, Gavin’s grandfather, businessman William Newsom, helped Edmund G. “Pat” Brown win the race for San Francisco district attorney. Gov. Pat Brown awarded the concession for the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics to Newsom and John Pelosi, father-in-law of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In 1975, new Gov. Jerry Brown appointed another William Newsom, the son of Pat Brown’s pal, to a judgeship in Placer County, and in 1978, Brown appointed the same Newsom to the state court of appeals.

Jerry Brown was fond of high taxes, ever-increasing government, and boondoggle projects such as the vaunted bullet train and massive water tunnels. On the other hand, Brown sometimes acted as a goalie to block legislation he believed was misguided.

For example, last October Brown vetoed SB 320, which would have required state universities to offer their students abortion drugs. And Brown also warned about “single payer” health care, a euphemism for a government monopoly arrangement.

“Where do you get the extra money?” Brown asked reporters in 2017. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown,’” Brown explained, “which makes no sense.” By all indications, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wasn’t listening.

On his first day as governor, Newson announced plans for a government-funded single-payer health system and reinstatement of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Newsom also tasked state health agencies to negotiate drug prices and ordered the establishment of a California surgeon general. The plans included no cost estimate, the problem Brown flagged in 2017.

Jerry Brown managed to scale back some of the pension perks that have bulked up the state’s unfunded liabilities. According to the Stanford Hoover Institution’s “Hidden Debts, Hidden Deficits,” California owes $769,407,011, nearly 217 percent more than officially reported. On the other hand, Newsom’s first budget boosted payments to the public employees and teacher’s retirement systems beyond what is required by law.

Newsom is unlikely to challenge government employee unions, which on Brown’s watch paraded outside the state capital proclaiming “this is our house!” The new governor wants a new tax on drinking water and is already targeting Proposition 13, the state’s 1978 cap on property tax hikes.

Before he supported Proposition 13, Jerry Brown was against it. He also opposed the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, which bars racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting.

Newsom is also against the voter-approved measure, which he claims “robs underserved communities of the opportunity for social mobility, and shatters the economic prosperity of the entire state.” Brown and Newsom are also similar in their approach to crime.

With 283 commutations and 1,332 pardons, Brown granted more clemency requests in his last eight years than did any of his last eight predecessors. During Brown’s final weeks in office the State Supreme Court denied seven of his clemency requests as an “abuse of power.”

Last year Brown signed SB 1391, which barred the prosecution of 14- and 15-year-olds as adults, whatever the gravity of their crime. Newsom plans to keep moving in this direction, taking the Division of Juvenile Justice out of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Today is the beginning of the end of juvenile imprisonment as we know it,” the new governor announced.

Jerry Brown ran for president three times (1976, 1980 and 1992) and Gavin Newsom reportedly has his eyes on the White House. Brown was known as “Governor Moonbeam,” and in San Francisco Newsom was known as “Mayor McHottie.” So not everything in the Golden State will remain the same.

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the nonprofit Independent Institute. He is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield, and A Shut and Open Case: Double Murderer Mounts a Comeback in Davis, California.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.