Say what you want about Gov. Gavin Newson but sometimes he acts like he is the only adult in the State Capitol that bleeds a hue of blue that is loyal to the responsibilities of governance than scoring political points.
Two key points to underscore that observation:
*Newsom resisted pressure to give Barbara Lee the inside track to be California’s next six-year senator.
*The governor vetoed a bid to use the state’s unemployment system as a weapon for unions to hammer employers into submission.
First the unemployment fund.
Do not misunderstand.
Newsom did not refute the underlying assertion that the unemployment system was somehow fashioned to be a weapon in labor bargaining.
Besides, who needs to fall back on unemployment benefits if you strike after two weeks when the California Legislature can deliver by edict more concessions than you ever could from a strike?
Do you think fast food workers would be getting a raise in minimum pay from the current $15.50 an hour to $20 when April 1, 2024 rolls around without the heavy hand of lawmakers?
Or would health care workers be looking at the possibility of their minimum wage jumping to $23 an hour next year and $25 by 2028 via a bill now on Newsom’s desk if they had gone the direct route instead of getting the legislature to do their bidding?
Keep in mind there is more to the puzzle than whether workers “deserve it” or employers “can afford it.”
No raise happens in a vacuum. That goes at least quadruple for mandatory raises imposed by government edict.
Raises have a tendency to force overall pay up in average — and in especially tight — labor markets.
That, of course, feeds inflation that historically has a nasty tendency when fueled by massive expenses hitting the production of goods or the cost of services — of which labor and benefits are by far the biggest — to ultimately ramp up prices quicker than wages.
And now, with at least fast food and health care workers, that jolt will be significant. California is about to enter uncharted waters in terms of its ripple effect of mega mandated pay increases.
It is highly likely to send the inflation rate toward banana republic levels compared to the post-pandemic rise in prices.
The adult solution — assuming one could ever come out of Sacramento — is to create paths and opportunities that allows upward mobility through learning additional skills and helping technology evolve creating jobs that command higher wages.
Instead, Sacramento seems content to allow a situation where traditional starter jobs are now de facto lifetime jobs not by choice but because the upward mobility isn’t there.
Newsom, in rejecting unemployment benefits as strike pay for workers, didn’t address the pitfalls that any economist worth their salt will tell you are extremely real and can be even more destructive on economic well-being than most of us can imagine.
Call it unintended consequences. Call if collateral damage.
But to be an adult, Newsom didn’t need to have such a conversation.
All he had to do was point out the obvious.
*The unemployment fund is already $18 billion in debt.
*That happened when Newsom ordered businesses to close during the pandemic.
*To add to the mess, even the state estimates it was unwittingly an enabler of $20 billion in COVID unemployment fraud.
*The state had to borrow billions from the federal government to cover legitimate and illegitimate unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
*This year, for the first time ever, the unemployment fund is taking in less money than it is paying out in a given 12-month period.
The fund, in case anyone is wondering, is covered by a tax on the first $7,000 or workers’ wages — a level that has been unchanged since 1984.
It was working fine, of course, until government went wild during the pandemic.
And as one final note: Consumers — read that taxpayers — ultimately will pay the bill for fast food and health care workers getting a bump way above the rest of the workforce that is tied to a $15.50 hour minimum wage base.
It will impact taxpayers. Right now, San Joaquin General Hospital — a county run default healthcare center if you will — is looking for a lot of healthcare workers it doesn’t want to pay more than $18 an hour to hire.
Who do you think is going to cover the additional $7 per hour — individual members of the California Legislature?
As for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate appointment to finish her term, Newsom’s move was politically brilliant without pandering to factions in the Democratic Party.
But more importantly, he didn’t give an advantage to any of the three declared Democratic candidates — of which one will win the 2024 election given the odds of California electing a Republican as a US Senator at this juncture in time is about as high as a glass of water left outdoors in Death Valley freezing at high noon on July 1.
Some call his appointee, Laphonza Butler, a Democratic Party insider. Let’s call her for what she is. A political workhorse that makes things happen.
She was the behind-the-scenes plotter that got the $15 minimum wage law enacted in 2016.
And she is a solid fundraiser.
Those are two attributes that suits the governor well, especially if he ultimately seeks the presidency.
And given Butler is Black and a woman, it allowed him to keep his promise of a few years back that the next appointment to the Senate — if he was able to make one — would be a Black woman.
Newsom’s decision didn’t sit to well with supporters of Barabra Lee’s bid to become the next Senator. She is one of three prominent US representatives from California seeking the seat. The others are Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. All three are Democrats.
But if you are a Californian — regardless of your political leanings – it means a 2024 Senate race where you can decide the winner.
That’s because incumbents — appointed or otherwise — have a built in advantage.
And should Butler choose to run you will have four choices, with her not being someone who was already in the limelight and already had a political base in the realm of the electorate.
And let’s be clear. All Democrats are not alike. This matters not just to Democrats but to Republicans.
As a choice in March you will have the opportunity to elevate two of the top vote getters regardless of what side of the blue-red divide they fall into a runoff for the right to represent California in the US Senate for the next six years.
It will likely be two Democrats. That is almost a given.
But it won’t be a preordained candidate that has enough stature to have made Newsom a kingmaker.
That’s because if Butler decides to run for an elected term and wins, it will be based on something entirely different as in rejecting all that have been a part of the galvanizing political fray of recent times.
You may not like the choices based on your politics but one things is for sure.
Newsom, by appointing Butler, has empowered Californians to choose who will be their next six-term U.S. Senator.
And that should give you a clue to what type of blood Newsom is.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com