Newsom Touts a ‘California for All’ in Inaugural Address

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SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom was sworn in Monday and immediately drew sharp battle lines with President Donald Trump, pledging to enact "progressive, principled" policies as the antidote to the White House's "corruption and incompetence."

"People's lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe — they all hang in the balance," Newsom, 51, declared to a crowd of hundreds packed into a tent outside the Capitol.

Newsom took the helm as California's 40th governor with a speech laced with bold pronouncements about California's values and the direction he envisions for the nation's most populous state.

His inauguration was by-in-large a victory celebration and he didn’t stray much from his campaign promises.

"We will never waver in our pursuit of guaranteed health care for all Californians," he said.

On his agenda is more money for preschool and higher education, increasing wages and job opportunities, guaranteeing union rights, supporting the state's immigrant population and tackling the state’s affordability crisis.

But there were few specifics on how he'll get there. He never mentioned Trump by name, but said the president's administration is "hostile to California's values and interests" and blasted plans to build a wall along the nation's border with Mexico.

"The country is watching us, the world is watching us. The future depends on us, and we will seize this moment," he said.

Newly installed U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, was among those in attendance for the inaugural address. She got a standing ovation when she entered, an affirmation of the strong backing her opposition to Trump has in California's Democrat-controlled capital.

A church choir from Compton got the crowd on its feet with upbeat renditions of popular songs to kick off the event, reflecting the younger, flashier style Newsom will bring compared to his 80-year-old predecessor, Jerry Brown.

In another sign of the generational shift, Newsom's 2-year-old son Dutch wandered on stage during the speech. Newsom, who has four children, picked him up and continued delivering his speech. The boy then walked around stage dragging a blanket, drawing laughs from the crowd until Newsom's wife took him off stage.

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Even as he needled Trump, Newsom offered an overture to voters in rural California, millions of whom voted for Trump and John Cox, Newsom's Republican rival in November.

"I recognize that many in our rural communities believe that Sacramento doesn't care about them — doesn't even really see them," he said. "I see you. I care about you. And I will represent you with pride.

While touting the California Dream and strong economy, Newsom also acknowledged the state has problems, from a homelessness crisis to a gulf between the state's wealthiest and poorest residents to failing schools, all of which he called "moral imperatives." Beyond Trump, he pledged to take on drug companies, the gun lobby, polluters and payday lenders.

Newsom praised Brown, a longtime family friend, but indicated he would strike out a separate path from the fiscal restraint Brown made a hallmark of his last eight years in office. Brown sometimes angered legislative Democrats by rejecting big-ticket social spending items.

Newsom, meanwhile, already has pledged to expand access to early childhood education, reduce the cost of community college and extend family leave. He suggested Brown's method of resisting more spending in favor of saving needed rethinking.

"For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock," he said. "Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it."

More specifics on Newsom's plans — including a "Marshall plan" for affordable housing, a reduction in drug prices and criminal justice reforms — will be outlined in the coming days.

"We’re committed to launching a Marshall plan for affordable housing and we’ll lift up the fight against homelessness from a local matter to a statewide mission," Newsom said.

Newsom's inaugural address and celebration highlighted California's diversity. His wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, delivered opening remarks in Spanish and a Mexican-American band from Richmond performed.

Throughout his speech, Newsom sharply contrasted Trump's rhetoric on immigrants, saying California will not have "one house for the rich and one for the poor, or one for the native-born and one for the rest."

For his part, Newsom said there should be a moral responsibility to aim high.

"Doing what is right even though it is hard, that will be the foundational mission of our administration," he said. "We will be California for all."

But his something-for-everyone approach has some Republican lawmakers worried about the cost of existing public obligations.

"These pension plans, these retiree medical costs are really taking a burden," said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. "So before we add on we should just step back."

"All these dreamy ideas, some have merit, but they can’t be just a blank check. The people of California cannot afford that," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

Newsom supporters back his vision while believing that he should and will be a responsible spender.

"Just because we have a $14 billion surplus right now is not anything to crow about because first of all that can be gone instantaneously overnight," said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough.

Gov. Newsom is expected to release the first draft of his state budget on Thursday and that will go a long way in answering the persistent questions about how he plans to pay for his vision for California.

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