In his first remarks at a University of California Board of Regents meeting this morning, Lt. Gov. and Regent Gavin Newsom proposed challenging half a billion dollars in cuts to the UC system proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Newsom said the regents shouldn't automatically accept the cuts and said, "I'm not convinced we're going to lose that half a billion dollars."
The remark suggested Newsom won't hew tightly to the Brown administration line as lieutenant governor, despite coming from the same party and sharing longtime family ties. Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, had expressed some concern about Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies on Jan. 10, just minutes after taking the oath of office.
Wednesday's remarks at the Board of Regents meeting, however, reflected a stronger tone from Newsom. The lieutenant governor's office comes with a Board of Regents seat.
Overall, Newsom struck an ambitious and challenging theme at the meeting held at UC San Diego, after UC President Mark Yudof warned his audience of the painful cuts to come.
"I sit here bewildered by the state not of only our state but the state of our UC system," Newsom said. "I didn't come here to fail more efficiently. I didn't come here to play in the margins. I didn't want this job to keep asking the same old questions."
He added, "I think we need to ask some different questions around here."
Newsom also said he planned to "blow up" the state Commission for Economic Development, which he chairs as lieutenant governor.
"It's been frankly a waste of energy of folks participating," he said.
Photo: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 10, 2011, at the state Capitol. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee)
UPDATE: In an interview this afternoon, Newsom elaborated that the UC Board of Regents should look for alternatives to some of the cuts suggested by Brown and help the governor avoid making them.
"Isn't our job to make the case to the Legislature about alternatives and give the governor some cover?" Newsom said. "(Brown) needs people to advocate against it."
The Bee caught up with Brown this afternoon and asked him about Newsom's comments.
Brown's response: "I understand that regents are going to advocate, and just like the cities ... everyone is going to be advocating in the best way they can. At the end of the day, you've got to come up with our $25 billion in solutions. It's all moving the pieces on the board. And each group does advocate but at the end of the day we'll get most of them in the room and we'll come out with something."