With a deluge of dollars pouring into California coffers from state taxpayers and Uncle Sam, Democratic leaders in the legislature agreed to a budget plan that would spend a little less than what the Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed, while injecting billions of dollars to help Californians recover. of the pandemic.
The $ 267.1 billion plan announced by the Assembly and Senate on Tuesday largely reflects proposals Newsom put forward in its $ 267.8 billion budget last month. It includes Newsom’s “Golden State Stimulus”, which will send at least $ 500 to every household that earns up to $ 75,000 per year. It would pay even more in grants to help small businesses and in payments for unemployment insurance. But that would launch fewer new social programs than the Democratic governor proposed.
“This is a historic budget,” Assembly budget committee chairman Phil Ting said in a video conference with reporters. “It’s the biggest budget in the history of the state of California.”
With the leaders of both houses of the Legislature on the same page, negotiations now turn to Newsom as they work to reach a final deal before June 15. Here are some key areas that both parties must reconcile as they make decisions that will impact millions of Californians.
Lawmakers have accepted most of Newsom’s proposals to spend billions of dollars on homelessness, mostly buying hotels and motels. But they differ at the time. The legislature proposes to spend $ 8.5 billion in new funding over two years, compared to $ 6.8 billion for the governor next year alone.
“We want to provide housing for our homeless people, we don’t want people living on the streets in California,” said Senator Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley who heads the Senate Budget Committee.
The legislature is allocating $ 1 billion in annual funding to cities and counties to tackle homelessness over the next four years, with lawmakers saying the funding will be tied to strong oversight and accountability. Newsom did not include such continuous and flexible funding for local governments in its budget.
“It would actually be the first of its kind,” said Chris Martin, policy director for Housing California, whose organization has been pushing for such funding for years. “This is the first time that we have allocated a general fund allocation to the problem that voters claim is number one.”
Local public health officials tired by the pandemic had criticized Newsom’s budget for not including significant money to rebuild the state’s public health infrastructure battered by COVID-19. The legislature has taken care of it, calling for an additional $ 200 million per year to help public health departments add staff and modernize equipment.
“California lawmakers have taken the lessons of COVID-19 to heart and presented a plan … so that California is never again under-prepared and under-funded when the next public health crisis strikes,” Michelle Gibbons, Executive Director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said in a statement.
Overall, the Legislative Assembly’s plan sets aside $ 403 million per year to address what it called “the decades-long underinvestment in our public health system that has left us less prepared to do. in the face of the pandemic â.
It also sets aside an additional $ 100 million per year for community health organizations working on health equity and racial justice issues – funding Newsom was not including. Skinner said the pandemic has exposed the need for more attention to the interplay between race and health.
âWhen you look at who has died from COVID, you’re much more likely in California to die from COVID – and across the country – if you’re black or brown,â she said.
âThe funding we have created in this regard will largely go to community entities that have direct relationships with people in our communities who experience this disparity. “
Lawmakers want to go beyond Newsom to provide a state-funded safety net for undocumented immigrants, who are excluded from most federal benefits, including food aid, unemployment insurance and checks. relaunch.
The legislature wants to make low-income undocumented immigrants 50 and over eligible for Medi-Cal, the government-sponsored health insurance plan, while Newsom has proposed offering it to people 60 and over.
Lawmakers have also proposed spending $ 550 million per year to provide food assistance to California immigrants currently excluded from the federally funded CalFresh program, including undocumented immigrants, young adults brought into the country illegally while they were children and immigrants from countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster. . Newsom’s budget did not include any food assistance specifically for immigrants.
âWe have the highest rate of hunger insecurity we’ve faced since the 1960s, so we have huge historic investments to end hunger,â Skinner said.
More students would get financial aid, and the University of California would provide more places for students in the state as part of the Legislature’s plan to pump money into the higher education system – important proposals that Newsom did not include in its budget.
Lawmakers want to spend $ 613 million to bolster the state’s main financial aid program, the Cal Grant, which they have long sought to overhaul. The expansion would be phased, with 133,000 more students from eligible community colleges this fall and another 50,000 added in 2022.
The legislature is also proposing to spend a lot to free up enrollment space at public universities, including the state’s three most sought-after campuses – Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. The legislature wants to pay these three campuses not to enroll about 900 out-of-state students per year, freeing up more than 2,700 spaces in three years that would go in place of California residents, starting in the fall 2022. Because out-of-state students pay much higher tuition fees, the state would foot the bill for this lost revenue, totaling $ 180 million over three years. The ultimate goal is to cap out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at 18% on the three coveted campuses, which matches a budget deal from several years ago.
The legislators’ budget proposal also includes $ 67 million to add 6,200 UC-wide registration locations and $ 81 million to add 9,400 Cal State campus locations. The expansion would come into effect in the fall of 2022.
They also want to spend $ 540 million so college students have to borrow less or nothing for college.
âThis is a huge, huge proposition for higher education, and it also ensures that not only do you have more access to UC and CSU, but that you are going to graduate debt-free,â said Ting, a Democrat at San Francisco.
A program on Newsom’s wishlist would actually get less money under the legislature’s plan. His $ 2 billion proposal to give K-12 students at least $ 500 in college savings accounts would drop to $ 1 billion and be reserved for newborns.
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