SACRAMENTO – Supported by surging incomes amid the pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday proposed a budget that would pay for health care for all low-income state residents living illegally in the country, while cutting corporate taxes and ending a scheduled increase in the gasoline tax later this summer.
California taxpayers already pay for health care for young adults and people 50 and over living illegally in the country, provided they meet certain income requirements. Now Newsom wants California to become the first state to cover all adults who live illegally in the country, a move that would ultimately cost $ 2.2 billion a year.
“We are doing something that no other state has done,” Newsom said.
– Tania Pacheco-Werner (@taniahlthplce) January 10, 2022
Responding to the “existential threats” of the state
Newsom said his $ 286.4 billion budget proposal tackles five of the state’s biggest problems – what his administration has called “existential threats” – including the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic ; forest fires and drought aggravated by global warming; homelessness; income inequality, including lack of health insurance for some immigrants; and public safety, including tackling a recent wave of coordinated armed robberies.
The “existential” label is generally applied to climate change and the pandemic, Newsom acknowledged, but said that homelessness, the rising cost of living and public safety are “naturally a priority in terms of people’s concerns ”.
The governor said his budget included a surplus of $ 45.7 billion, which is higher than previous estimates because his administration uses a different definition of what counts as a surplus.
The proposed $ 2.2 billion program to help illegally immigrants to the country will not take effect until January 2024 to include “all low-income Californians, regardless of their immigration status,” said Newsom.
The state has made great strides in reducing its uninsured population in recent years, but largest group left behind under the state’s Medicaid program are low-income residents in the country illegally.
The state began covering immigrants aged 26 and under in 2019 and those aged 50 and over last year.
Governor to haggle with fellow Democrats over final budget
The governor’s budget speech kicks off months of haggling with fellow Democrats who control the state legislature, discussions that will intensify when Newsom presents an updated spending proposal in May.
Some progressive legislative Democrats proposed last week to create in California the first universal health system, backed by steep tax hikes that are expected to be approved by voters. But Newsom touted its own more progressive approach.
Efforts to help businesses and fight forest fires
Among the measures to mitigate rising state costs, he proposed to suspend the planned increase in the state’s gasoline tax on July 1. It was one of 10 tax incentives he touted. He also proposed $ 45 million to promote tourism; $ 40 million to waive application fees for new businesses; and $ 26 million to provide technical assistance to new businesses
He further offered on Monday to spend $ 648 million to support wildland firefighters and buy more helicopters and bulldozers, plus $ 1.2 billion in addition to the $ 1.5 billion in the current budget year. for forest management.
An additional $ 750 million would go to drought aid, on top of the current budget year’s $ 5.2 billion water package.
Still on the environmental front, he pledged to continue reducing California’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The GOP’s response
“At first glance, there are certainly things to like about this proposal; funding drinking water, preventing forest fires and homelessness are all laudable goals, ”Republican Assembly leader Marie Waldron said in a statement. “But look at the details and you’ll see that a lot of that spending isn’t going to transformational projects to improve the lives of Californians, but rather to clean up years of Democratic mismanagement.”
Sen. Jim Nielsen, a senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said the state should spend its budget surplus on building reservoirs, increasing forest management to mitigate wildfires and supporting law enforcement.
To deal with the state’s seemingly intractable homelessness problem, Newsom has proposed spending $ 2 billion on mental health services, housing and cleaning up homeless settlements. This is in addition to last year’s $ 12 billion envelope. The combination would create 55,000 new housing units and treatment slots.
To help with the ever-increasing cost of living in California, Newsom proposed to “double” the state’s existing plan to provide free universal preschool; by adding thousands of child care spaces and strengthening before, after and summer programs.
He also offered continued help to small businesses hit hard by the pandemic by waiving fees and providing hundreds of millions in grants and tax breaks.