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During State of the State speech, Newsom gives details about plan for rising gas prices

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his annual State of the State address in Sacramento.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his annual State of the State address in Sacramento on Tuesday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 9. I’m Justin Ray.

Before he hit the stage in Sacramento on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom was already in a strong position.

The state continues its steady rebound from COVID-19. Mask mandates that have divided residents are being lifted. Six months ago, voters chose to keep him in office despite a recall election. His opponent, Larry Elder, has announced he won’t seek a rematch.

However, the state is struggling with one big problem: gas prices.

During his State of the State speech, Newsom juxtaposed California’s championing of democracy and embracing diversity with the rising “authoritarian impulses” in America that are driving the war in Ukraine. But he also acknowledged that prices at the pump have soared.

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He announced that he’s developing a plan with the Legislature to help residents afford fuel. The governor’s January budget included a proposal to halt a gas tax increase, and he built on that idea in his speech. He said he would introduce a gas tax rebate for Californians into budget negotiations.

“In January, we proposed a pause to the gas taxes,” Newsom said. “Now it’s clear we have to go further. And that’s why — working with legislative leadership — I’ll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians to address rising gas prices.”

But the cost to transportation projects could be high. A report last month by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that a one-cent drop in the state’s portion of the gas tax would reduce transportation revenue by as much as $175 million.

The Times has reported that based on wholesale gasoline futures just before President Biden’s decision Tuesday to halt U.S. purchases of Russian oil, the average gas price will probably hit $4.50 a gallon soon nationally. Analysts also say that California may see fuel costs reach $6 to $7 a gallon. (Want to find cheaper gas? We create a guide that you might want to check out.)

The speech wasn’t all about gas, however. Newsom also discussed homelessness, COVID-19, and healthcare. You can find full coverage of his remarks here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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How high could gas prices go? More pain at the pump probably coming. President Biden’s decision Tuesday to halt U.S. purchases of Russian oil adds new urgency to those fears and broader anxiety about inflation. So what’s likely to happen at the gas pump and beyond? Here are the best answers available in a complex and unpredictable crisis. Los Angeles Times

 A man pumps gas into his work truck in Los Angeles
Alex Reyes, 28, began filling up his work truck and stopped when he noticed the gas prices on the large marquee at a Shell gas station in Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. STORIES

Some L.A. schools face uncertain futures as student enrollment declines dramatically. With state funding based on the number of students in the classroom, districts across California are bracing for the effect of declining enrollment — the result of falling birth rates, out-of-state migration, the high cost of living and the growth of charter schools, along with the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

Teachers, parents and students protest the proposed closure of Pio Pico Middle School
Teachers, parents and students protest the proposed closure of Pio Pico Middle School in Los Angeles due to declining enrollment. About 200 people joined the rally outside the school on Feb. 4.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Medi-Cal expansion delivers on a promise. Well, kind of. When Gov. Gavin Newsom ran for office in 2018, he supported single-payer healthcare — a state-run system that would be guaranteed to all Californians. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, the governor has steadily expanded Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, to include income-eligible residents of all ages regardless of their immigration status. “Newsom is close to being able to say that within a few years, the state will have reached ‘universal coverage,’ by which he means that everyone has access to some form of care,” Mark Kreidler writes. Capital and Main

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

A mother is facing 20 years behind bars due to a scam she conducted with her son who is on death row. Sheila Denise Dunlap admitted she and her son obtained personal information of more than 9,000 people to apply for stimulus checks in 2020. She used her own bank account information to get more than $145,000 in these payments, investigators say. Dunlap admitted in her plea agreement that her son, identified only by the initials D.W., sent her the personal information of his fellow prisoners whom they suspected might qualify as non-filers of 2018 or 2019 income tax returns. KTVU

A San Francisco police officer has been found not guilty of three felony counts in what is believed to be the first excessive-force trial for an on-duty officer in the city’s history. A jury found Officer Terrance Stangel not guilty on one count each of battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. “We respect the jury process, although we remain disappointed that police accountability remains so elusive and difficult to achieve,” Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin said in a statement. Los Angeles Times

Yesterday was the conclusion of a 33-day protest against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Norwalk Station after the fatal shooting of Frederick Holder, an unarmed, young father. Twitter

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Environmental groups are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and California air regulators to push harder on getting the state to convert to electric cars. More specifically, the groups want 7% annual increases in emissions reductions for gasoline vehicles compared with 5% on average under standards adopted under President Obama. “Californians being punished by high gas prices and climate disasters deserve the fastest all-electric future Gov. Newsom can deliver,” said Scott Hochberg of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, one of the groups signing the letter. Reuters

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

How ‘Jeopardy!’ star Amy Schneider fell in love with her new fiancee, Genevieve Davis. On Feb. 24, Schneider announced to more than 200,000 social media followers that she “couldn’t be happier or more proud to be marrying the very best person in the entire world.” In a recent joint interview from their Oakland home, Schneider, 42, and Davis, 25, reflect on their engagement. “We both felt — from pretty early in our relationship — that this is where it was headed, but I was so surprised by it,” Schneider said. Los Angeles Times

Genevieve Davis, left, taking a selfie with Amy Schneider
Nanny Genevieve Davis, left, and “Jeopardy!” star Amy Schneider recently got engaged.
(Genevieve Davis)

O.C. couple and newborn who escaped Ukraine are back home. What happened to their surrogate? We previously told you about Jessie and Jacob Boeckmann’s harrowing escape from Ukraine with their newborn daughter, Vivian. They recently told us they have “survivor’s guilt.” The Times also talked to the surrogate who is still in Ukraine enduring the Russian invasion. Los Angeles Times

Jessie, left, and Jacob Boeckmann, right, with their two daughters, Vivian and Mary.
Jessie, left, and Jacob Boeckmann with their two daughters, 2-week-old Vivian, and 2-year-old Mary, at their home in Costa Mesa on March 3. Their Ukrainian surrogate, Lilya, gave birth to Vivian on Valentine’s Day.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny 68 San Diego: Overcast 63 San Francisco: Sunny 61 San Jose: Sunny 67 Fresno: Sunny 72 Sacramento: Sunny 71. Go local.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Rheinola Swartz:

Andrew and I have traveled regularly from Sydney, Australia to Orange County over the past eight years to spend special occasions with our daughter and granddaughter for birthdays, Christmas and grandparents day. We absolutely love Newport Beach the people are amazing; great restaurants and entertainment with regular road trips to L.A. The friendships we’ve formed over the years are absolutely priceless. Thank you, California 😎

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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