Key takeaways from Cal Cities’ meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom

Feb 7, 2024

By Brian Hendershot, Cal Cities Advocate managing editor

Collaboration with cities, local solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis, and accountability were top of mind for Gov. Gavin Newsom during a Wednesday meeting with the Cal Cities officers and executive director. The group met to discuss cities’ priorities for 2024, as well as shared goals and challenges.  

Both Cal Cities and the Governor are broadly aligned on several key issues, including the need to reduce retail theft. Last month, Cal Cities urged lawmakers to pass bills that center prevention, enforcement, and supervision in equal measure.

Newsom has so far resisted calls to reform Proposition 47. The 2014 ballot initiative changed some nonviolent thefts to misdemeanors when the value does not exceed $950. He has, however, put forth his own plan to curb retail theft and wants to clarify existing laws.

A key sticking point for the Governor and some policymakers is the lack of comprehensive data on retail theft and barriers to enforcing existing laws.

Cal Cities also emphasized the need for ongoing funding to help cities increase housing and reduce homelessness. In January, Cal Cities once again called on lawmakers to create an ongoing, flexible funding stream to help cities jumpstart affordable housing and address the homelessness crisis.

Newsom did not immediately shut down the idea of ongoing funding. However, he did say that state funding is not limitless and should supplement local programs — not replace them.

The former San Francisco mayor also noted that cities make state and federal policies a reality: It will take collaborative efforts like CARE Court and Project Homekey to end the housing and homelessness crisis.  

Looming over the conversation between Cal Cities leadership and the Governor was the state’s budget deficit. The Governor projected a $38 billion deficit in January. The Legislative Analyst’s Office — which predicted a much higher shortfall — called that number “ optimistic but plausible.”

With January tax receipts lower than expected, it’s clear that more cuts are on the horizon. Newsom in the meeting reiterated many of his January talking points, including the need to change how much the state can legally save during budget surpluses.

Board officers also pressed Newsom to protect local revenue streams during budget negotiations, bolster workforce development programs, and speed up the state’s climate resiliency and disaster preparedness efforts.