Here’s where Brian Dahle, Jenny Rae Le Roux and Gavin Newsom, applicants for governor, stand on some of the biggest questions facing California.
California’s affordable housing crisis only deepened during the pandemic, as average home prices surged even further out of reach for many families. Homelessness likely worsened as well, prompting Governor Newsom to propose forcing more homeless and mentally ill people into treatment. The Legislature twice extended a statewide eviction moratorium, but the final protections for renters ended on March 31. Lawmakers also tried to pump up housing supply by allowing duplexes on single-family lots, but cities are pushing back. Some also say the California Environmental Quality Act is stopping housing production.
How would you increase the production of affordable housing?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “I actually think CEQA was a great law. … Unfortunately, it’s turned into a pawn in many schemes. … We need to, first of all, hold people accountable who are using CEQA to sue just to extract. … If you frivolously sue and you lose and continue to lose, you have to pay. You have to pay for this because you’re just holding up the process.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “I will streamline regulatory approvals and will incentivize localities to remove new local growth ordinances which increase house prices by up to 5% per ordinance. Additionally, I will act to lower development impact fees. My administration will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of CEQA.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “We have done more in the past three years than ever before in California history to invest in housing construction and cut government red tape blocking construction. The budget I signed last year invested a historic $10.3 billion – by far the most ever invested in housing – into a comprehensive housing affordability strategy, while also implementing new laws and accountability measures. This year, I proposed a $2 billion investment to boost housing production and preserve affordable housing across the state.”
What changes would you make to the state’s current approach to address homelessness?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “There are not enough clinicians, period. Number one. We need to prioritize giving tax credits or something, or education vouchers, for people that want to go into social services work. … I prefer to give block grants to counties, because counties are really the ones that are going to implement these services and this is a very diverse state.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “First, I will audit existing services and shelters. We have nine state agencies overseeing 41 programs to address homelessness. Many programs are overfunded and underutilized. After the audit, I will fill gaps and ensure the homeless are legally bound to use housing options provided to them rather than occupying public spaces. Then, I will require every city to gather the names, ages, and veteran/non-veteran status of the homeless for accurate record keeping so that we know where resources need to be directed.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “The next phase of our approach is creating the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court — a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need. … CARE Court includes accountability for everyone – on the individual and on local governments – with court orders for services.”
Even though the economy is rebounding from COVID, California still has among the nation’s highest jobless rates and hasn’t recovered all the jobs lost. The pandemic also highlighted how much the state relies on the wealthy for tax revenues that are fueling record budget surpluses and raised again the issue of whether the tax system needs an overhaul.
What is your plan to lower the cost of living?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “We have 60% higher electricity rates on average than anybody in the nation…so we need to take a look at…for all energy produced in California, what the bang for the buck we’re getting. … We should be producing our oil here because we do it in a way better than anybody in the world, safer, more environmentally friendly.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “On Day 1, I will suspend the gas tax and redirect budget surplus funds to infrastructure. I will streamline home building, which is nearly impossible in California today. In addition, I will cut income taxes on the middle class, reduce fees and regulations that are stifling small businesses.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “Make California the first state in the nation to offer universal access to healthcare coverage. … Doubling down on plans to achieve free, universal pre-K, add thousands of child care slots… Create more housing California desperately needs, with billions in new grants and tax credits. Invest in small businesses, waiving fees and providing hundreds of millions in grants and tax breaks to small businesses.”
Is income inequality or wealth inequality a problem in California? Is state government doing enough to address the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “You have to allow companies to be able to stay in California, make sure that they have incentives to stay in California, and that’ll allow them to hire, which gives you good-paying jobs. … And by driving down the cost of living — your transportation, your electricity bill, your heat bill — those things directly are like putting dollars per hour in your pocket.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “Restoring the California Dream must include all Californians. I will address this by inspiring business investment to create high-paying jobs, reducing the cost of living, and increasing housing supply to make California a place that people of all income levels can afford to live.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “California has made major strides to expand services and supports for young children and their families by promoting and expanding quality, comprehensive programs and services for young children, including universal transitional kindergarten. We are employing a two-generation strategy — investing in parents so they can invest more in their children.”
On January 31, the Legislature, despite its Democratic supermajority, again rebuffed a bid by progressives for a single-payer system funded and run by state government. Instead, the state is moving to expand eligibility for Medi-Cal, though the proposal would leave out many. And California is still sorting out how to deal with COVID, though regarding it more as a predictable threat.
Has the state done enough to rein in health care costs?
- (R)Brian Dahle: “Our health care problems are because we eat horrible. I’m a farmer. Anything that comes in a package that wasn’t packaged by God is not healthy for you. I’m just going to tell you that. … We need to start educating young people and parents on our diet, which will help curve our later in life cost of healthcare. … The other thing we need to do is we need to have more competition in pharmaceuticals where we can drive the cost down.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “The current programs are failing because they do not effectively utilize technology to reduce costs, lack early investment in preventative care, and ignore root cause issues of repeat health care users. I will advocate for insurance to be available across state lines, increasing competition in the marketplace; a free market will provide the most efficient and affordable solution when it comes to healthcare coverage.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “California was the first state to provide premium relief for middle-class families who buy on the health care exchange, and this year California could become the first state to reach universal access to health care. We have taken on the pharmaceutical industry and are using our market power to drive down the cost of life saving medications like insulin.”
How should the state prepare for new variants or changes in the pandemic?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “We don’t need to be in a state of emergency with the governor making all the decisions. I actually have a bill that says the Legislature should, during a state of emergency, every 45 days decide whether we should be in a state of emergency and actually have that power. … I would consult with many doctors and consult with the Legislature, because we’re all in this together.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “If ICU capacity in a county approaches dangerously low levels from COVID occupancy, my administration will provide additional rapid testing capacity, medical support, and staffing resources to the affected area. … I support government-funded vaccine distribution and health education. However…I oppose vaccine passports and mask mandates.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “California is using proven tools – rooted in science and data – that have been honed over the past two years. We’re keeping our guard up with a focus on continued readiness, awareness, and flexibility to adapt to the evolving pandemic.”
California is stuck in a drought with signs the emergency will improve any time soon – or that voluntary measures will be enough. The state is also struggling to reach its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also advancing environmental justice for communities with dirty air and water.
Should the governor issue a mandatory water conservation order as drought persists?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “That’s just a sound bite that I don’t believe is going to make much difference at all. … We don’t manage our water very well in our reservoirs. We let that water go when we should be conserving that water. … We’ve conserved water in California about to where it’s really hard to conserve without fallowing land, which we’re going to do this year. … It’s a lot of economic reduction in California.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “Household conservation will make no dent in the water supply of California – it’s political gamesmanship, not problem solving. I will urgently complete new water storage… We must also replace conveyance infrastructure; California loses over 8 billion gallons of water per year to leaking pipes. Finally, I will accelerate permitting for additional water recycling and desalination plants in major cities to boost water supply in coastal areas.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “We all must do more to adjust and adapt. That’s why I called on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time.”
What would you do to ensure the state meets its greenhouse gas goals?
- (R) Brian Dahle: “You want to save the environment? Build transmission lines. Period. We have power that we’re exporting out of California. We just need to use it in California, drive the cost down. I think we need to make sure the grid is in a place where we can actually put electric vehicles and hubs in the cities. We need charging stations. We can’t have electric vehicles if we don’t have enough charging stations.”
- (R) Jenny Rae Le Roux: “California wildfires are high-emissions events. I have a comprehensive plan to end catastrophic wildfires in California through early detection and better forest management.”
- (D) Gavin Newsom: “California will continue to lead the world in turning our climate resolve into real action…bolstering the clean energy economy and creating new jobs, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, building more prosperous and sustainable communities for all, and protecting Californians from the extreme effects of climate change.
[AOA’s Note: Not mentioned in this article is Michael Shellenberger, who is recommended by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.]
CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. For more information, visit www.CalMatters.org.