California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday approved $131 million to improve drinking water infrastructure, backfill county property taxes from wildfires and take other actions in the first two bills he signed as the state’s chief executive.
Newsom, a Democrat, traveled to a school in the Central Valley to emphasize his focus on ensuring California schools have access to clean water.
“I don’t deserve to be your governor if I can’t figure out a way to get that done,” he said.
One of the bills he signed puts $10 million toward emergency drinking water projects and another $10 million to help water districts comply with drinking water standards.
Newsom has proposed a new tax on water that can help fund more water projects in disadvantaged communities.
At least 360,000 Californians rely on drinking water that doesn’t meet state standards, and the water of millions more has not met state standards at some point in recent years, according to a 2018 investigation by McClatchy newspapers.
Newsom also approved $31.3 million to backfill three years-worth of property taxes in Butte and Lake counties, where thousands of homes and business were destroyed by wildfires in recent years.
The bill sends $5 million to a new fund to work with non-profits dealing with “immigration and human trafficking emergency situations,” and provides $10 million to begin upgrading the state’s 911 system.
Newsom outlined most of the new spending in his January budget plan, but lawmakers fast-tracked the legislation to start the spending now rather than wait until the budget takes effect July 1. The money will come out of the existing budget.
The bill also gives $15 million to the state’s finance department to deal with any legal issues arising from the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. bankruptcy filing.
The second bill Newsom signed gives him the authority to use money from state reserves in the case of a declared emergency.
Newsom lost most Central Valley counties in the November election to his Republican rival. But he said he’s traveled repeatedly to the area to showcase his commitment to improving the lives and economic status of its residents.
“I know folks didn’t get overwhelmed and enthusiastic about my campaign out here, I’m not naive,” Newsom said. But, he added, “I represent the entire state of California.”