Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $222 billion budget for 2020-21 includes tens of millions of dollars to improve efforts to boost economic development and medical education efforts in Fresno and the Valley — investments that local officials said Friday are highly welcome and will be put to good use.
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Newsom, who delivered the keynote address at the California Economic Summit in Fresno in November, said then that the Valley’s economy is important to California. On Friday he made good on his promises to bootstrap the region with budget proposals to boost economic development efforts, with the goal of preparing residents for more jobs with higher wages.
The proposed budget designates $50 million from the general fund to support Fresno-area regional investments, with $33 million targeted for research and development, innovation, and commercialization that will contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture production and high-income jobs in the so-called Fresno-Merced Food Innovation Corridor.
In addition, $17 million will be pumped into the Fresno Integrated K-16 Education Collaborative, targeting improvements to education pathways to prepare Fresno-area students for higher-paying, high-growth job sectors.
More Money for Medical Education
The budget also includes $15 million to expand services provided by the UCSF School of Medicine campus in Fresno, in partnership with UC Merced, that will lead to improvements in health care in a region that is vastly underserved by health care providers.
Former Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who now heads the Central Valley Community Foundation, said she was encouraged that the governor has backed up his support of addressing inland California’s problems with budget dollars.
“We were not really sure if investment priorities would follow suit,” she said. “And so I think his budget is a great example of how the administration is very serious about a different future for California.”
Budget Reflects Needs in DRIVE Plan
The foundation sponsored the DRIVE Initiative, the 10-year community investment plan that was rolled out at the November economic summit. Newsom’s budget contains additional money for many of the recommendations in the DRIVE plan, Swearengin said, including early childhood education, community schools, and sustainable groundwater management.
“I think this budget today is an important major next step for our community,” she said. “But it’s just a step. And there are going to be a lot of setbacks and a lot more steps ahead of us.
“So just keep going. You know, persistence is the key to turning our community around.”
Mayor Lee Brand praised Newsom for recognizing that the Valley needs — and welcomes — the state’s support to help overcome chronic economic problems.
“Fresno and Clovis have significant needs because we have significant challenges,” Brand said. “It’s good to see that Gov. Newsom not only recognizes those needs, but was willing to invest a substantial amount of state funding to address them. We have a lot of work to do, and this money will go a long way to move our city and region forward.
“So far, the governor has come through for the Valley.”
Officials Praise Newsom for Valley Funding
Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, said he was encouraged to see that Newsom’s budget targets specific money to benefit the Fresno region.
“These funds will be a down payment on bolstering opportunities in our region that continues to face economic obstacles,” he said.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, also praised Newsom for choosing to invest state funds in the region for medical education, which Costa said is desperately needed.
“I’ve had numerous conversations with the governor about the need to expand medical education in the Valley, and about my work to bring federal dollars to this effort, including before the California Economic Summit in November,” he said. “During the summit’s keynote address, the governor publicly committed to supporting the expansion of medical education in the Valley.
“He’s lived up to his promise. No other governor has shown such a strong commitment to the Valley.”