SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom boldly declared his state a model for the nation Monday but said its leaders have failed to rein in the soaring cost of living and stem inequalities that are making it harder for people to achieve what he called the "California dream."
"We face serious challenges — some that have been deferred for too long," Newsom said in his inaugural address. "We face a gulf between the rich and everyone else — and it's not just inequality of wealth, it's inequality of opportunity."
Still, Newsom said it's California that can best defend U.S. values in the face of "incompetence and corruption" in Washington. He never mentioned President Donald Trump by name, but his speech was laced with sharp rebukes of Trump's policies, particularly on immigration.
"The future depends on us," he said. "And we will seize this moment."
Hours after taking the oath of office, Newsom proposed state-funded health care coverage for 138,000 young people living in the country illegally and reinstating a mandate for everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — part of former President Barack Obama's health care law that was eliminated by Republicans in Congress last year.
The outgoing governor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, and other political dignitaries packed into a tent outside the Capitol in Sacramento for Newsom's address. A church choir from Compton and a Mexican-American band energized the crowd in a display of the 51-year-old Newsom's flashier style.
The crowd became hushed and somewhat subdued when Newsom first began his speech, but laughter soon broke out when Newsom's 2-year-old son, Dutch, wandered on stage dragging a blanket.
Newsom held him for part of the speech and, when he put him down, the 2-year-old alternated between hiding behind the podium and evading his mother's grasp while walking across the stage. Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, eventually carried him off stage.
Newsom praised Brown, a longtime family friend, for his fiscal restraint but signaled an unmistakable shift in priorities. He barely mentioned climate change — one of Brown's signature issues — water or the high-speed rail line Brown has championed.
Instead, he focused on policies benefiting children and families, including early childhood education, health care and housing. He suggested California has failed to adequately care for suffering families. California is the world's fifth-largest economy but also has the nation's highest child poverty rate and largest homeless population.
"We have the resources to ensure a decent standard of living for all," he said. "It's not a question of whether we can do this, but whether we will."
He indicated he will be more willing to invest in those pricey priorities than Brown, who focused on saving money for a future recession and warned before leaving office that Democrats would overspend.
Newsom will deliver his first budget address Thursday, offering a look at whether he can make fresh investments while keeping California's reserves stocked, as he's pledged.
"For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock," he said. "Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it."
Democratic lawmakers praised Newsom for his focus on early childhood education, while Republicans, who are in the minority, held off on harshly criticizing the new governor. Other statewide elected officials also were sworn in Monday, including Eleni Kounalakis, the state's first elected female lieutenant governor.