California governor defiant in face of Trump agenda
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown forcefully defended California’s efforts to curb global warming, protect immigrants and expand health care, vowing in his State of the State address Tuesday to fight the Trump administration if it tries to roll back the state’s accomplishments.
“California is not turning back. Not now, not ever,” he declared.
The Democratic governor of the nation’s most populous state has helped put California in the vanguard of the effort to fight climate change. He also noted, among other things, the state’s successes in cutting unemployment, reducing a multibillion-dollar deficit and boosting school funding.
While no one knows what President Donald Trump’s administration will bring, the governor said, “there are signs that are disturbing.”
“We have seen the bold assertion of ‘alternative facts.’ We have heard the blatant attacks on science,” Brown told a joint session of the Democratic-controlled Legislature. “Familiar signposts of our democracy — truth, civility, working together — have been obscured or swept aside.”
With backing from the Obama administration, the state of 39 million people has adopted the most aggressive program in the U.S. to fight climate change, a campaign to roll back carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
The measures include escalating fees charged to polluters for emissions under the state’s cap-and-trade system, incentives for electric cars, and regulation of greenhouse gas releases from dairy cows and landfills.
The state also embraced the federal health care law and committed billions of dollars to expanding Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. While over 5 million more people now have access to health care, the expansion relies on billions in federal funding that now could be at risk.
Brown also noted several laws passed by the Legislature to expand protections for people living in the country illegally and to give them access to driver’s licenses, work permits and a college education.
“We may be called upon to defend those laws, and defend them we will,” he said. “We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”
He received a standing ovation from lawmakers.
He also urged the Democrats, who have a supermajority in both houses, to reject the divisiveness of last year’s presidential election and embrace bipartisanship.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale, said he hopes it was “a genuine invitation for collaboration.”
“His address did not give me confidence that we will be moving forward on issues that matter most to Californians,” Lackey said in a statement. “Skyrocketing housing costs, declining middle-class job prospects and rising violent crime rates were not even mentioned.”
Brown is projecting a $1.6 billion budget deficit and proposing $3 billion in spending cuts, largely to social programs that his fellow Democrats support. In his address, he did not propose any new policies.
He did find himself in agreement with the Trump administration on the need for infrastructure improvements, saying California has “roads and tunnels and railroads and even a dam that the president could help us with.”
Republicans in the Legislature agree with Democrats on the need for billions in infrastructure projects, but not on how to pay for them.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, said the speech offered hope for Californians who fear they might be singled out under the new administration in Washington: “I think it’s a message to them that we’re going to continue to protect you.”
Brown is coming off a blockbuster year of liberal victories. In addition to securing an extension of California’s landmark climate change legislation, he increased the state minimum wage, expanded family leave laws, toughened gun laws and persuaded voters to soften sentencing laws and reject a ballot measure that threatened two of his legacy projects on high-speed rail and water supply.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump dealt a blow to President Barack Obama’s legacy on climate change, signing executive actions to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, a move cheered by congressional Republicans and decried by environmentalists.
AP writer Sophia Bollag also contributed to this report.