Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision to spend almost $1 billion in taxpayer funds to buy protective masks drew national attention as an aggressive move by California to solve one of the most nagging problems of the coronavirus crisis.
But almost two weeks after he announced the deal during a cable TV interview, very few details have been disclosed. The governor's advisors have so far declined requests for information about the agreement with BYD, the Chinese electric car manufacturer hired to produce the masks, though the state has already wired the company the first installment of $495 million.
Newsom, who has been praised for his efforts to slow the spread of the disease, bristled on Saturday at suggestions that his administration has been too slow to explain a deal that will cost California taxpayers 30% more than his January budget would spend on infectious disease prevention for an entire fiscal year.
"I'm for outcome here," Newsom shot back when asked by a reporter about withholding the contract's details. "Some are consumed by process, personality, intrigue. Who's up, who's down. We are for actually solving a major, major problem — not only for the state but potentially a template for the country."
But a bipartisan chorus of concerns has emerged in the Legislature. Lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated that the governor's advisors have asked only for expedited approval to spend money without briefing them on what has been agreed to.