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Newsom Sets New Tone for California, White House Partnership



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SACRAMENTO— After four years of sparring with President Donald Trump, California is ready for a more productive, friendlier chapter with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined his areas of agreement and places where he hopes to collaborate with the new administration Tuesday in a letter to Biden. Among his requests are federal support for California’s efforts to house homeless people in hotel and motel rooms and a restoration of money for the state’s troubled high-speed rail project, which Trump revoked.

“I offer you my full partnership and support as you take office and inherit the tremendous responsibility to restore our nation’s economy and place of leadership on the global stage — all while working to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end,” Newsom wrote.

It’s a notably friendlier tone than Newsom often took with Trump, particularly during the first year of his governorship in 2019, when the two sparred over wildfire management, immigration and climate change. California, the nation’s most populous state, was often an easy punching bag for Trump. His administration tried to revoke California’s authority to set its own auto emissions standards, took away $1 billion for the high-speed rail project and adopted a slew of policies detrimental to the state’s millions of immigrants.

Newsom’s tone was more muted in 2020 as he sought not to anger, and even occasionally praised, Trump amid a scramble for federal help to contain the coronavirus. The federal government fulfilled many of his requests for assistance.

But a Democrat in the White House will automatically improve the relationship. California will have extra clout with Kamala Harris as vice president and potentially Xavier Becerra, the state’s current attorney general, as head of the federal health and human services agency.

Newsom Highlights Funding for the High-Speed Rail Project as a Top Priority

Newsom’s letter outlines his support for initiatives Biden has already announced, including more federal resources for vaccinating people and reopening schools. Newsom also supports a proposed a $1,400 relief payment for people. California is using state money to provide a one-time check of $600 to low-income individuals.

His letter further requests the federal government boost California’s efforts to house homeless people in hotels and motels, a new program during the pandemic. Biden has proposed $5 billion in aid nationally to purchase and convert hotels and motels. Newsom requested Biden support efforts to make the programs permanent and expand the use of housing vouchers.

Elsewhere, Newsom highlights funding for the high-speed rail project as a top priority. The state has been working to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco for more than a decade, but the project has been beset by delays and cost overruns. Most recently, one of the project’s main contractors blasted the pace of work, and even some Democratic lawmakers oppose continuing it. Newsom made no mention of the challenges in his letter.

Newsom further requested Biden restore California’s ability to set its own vehicle emissions standards, a power the Trump administration revoked as it dismantled climate change regulations. On immigration, he’s asking the administration to reverse rules aimed at denying green cards to immigrants likely to access public benefits and eliminate religion-based travel bans. Biden has already indicated plans to undo Trump’s travel ban on majority-Muslim nations and to outline a pathway to citizenship for people living in the country illegally.

“Having a true partner in the White House — and an Administration aligned with so many of our values — is a game changer for Californians,” Newsom wrote.