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BY ASSEMBLYMAN KEVIN KILEY
BYD China owed California a full refund, due last Friday, after its masks repeatedly failed federal safety tests. But Gavin Newsom told them to keep the money.
As of May 31, the secretly awarded $1 billion contract was null and void. California had gotten out of paying an inflated price of $3.30 per mask, and could have instead paid around $0.79 to an American manufacturer, as Eric Garcetti paid Honeywell.
But Governor Newsom, who got $40,000 in campaign contributions from BYD’s owner, interceded to revive the voided contract. While he’s admitted that California is overpaying (blaming the “Wild West” PPE market of early April), he declined the chance to nix the deal and put out a new bid.
Even back in April when Gov. Newsom made the deal, California could have made large quantities of masks for “easily under a dollar,” an expert with Raymond Associates told the LA Times, adding that the state “could have propped up its own factories and employed Californians out of work.”
BYD China, by contrast, hasn’t even started manufacturing the masks.
For two months I warned Gov. Newsom about BYD China’s masks falling short of quality and safety standards. This required no gift of foresight. Everyone but the Governor saw it coming. According to the federal safety regulator, “BYD submitted a total of four applications for N95 respirators. Three of the applications were denied and a fourth was withdrawn.”
This episode bears out the risks of concentrating power in the hands of a single person. Senator Nielsen and I are proposing a full audit of the BYD China affair and other botched mask deals. And it’s time for the Legislature to move forward with ACR 196, my resolution to rein in the Governor by cutting off his emergency powers.
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