Written by ADAM BEAM and DON THOMPSON Associated Press
(AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to give $20,000 stipends to teachers at high needs schools and extend health care to older low-income immigrants who are in the country illegally. He outlined the plans during an announcement Friday of his $222 billion budget proposal.
The Democratic governor is proposing a continued progressive agenda as he defended California’s progress against criticism from national naysayers in the wake of devastating wildfires and widespread power outages. His proposed budget increases spending by 2.3% or about $5 billion, but also boosts state reserves for any economic downturn.
“I’m heartened by the goals set in Gov. Newsom’s initial proposed budget, especially in the areas of health care, mental health services, and economic growth,” said Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) in a press release. “As a budget subcommittee chair, I focus on improving our health care system and, as the author of Health4All, I am extremely pleased that the Governor has included expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors.”
Others don’t share the sentiments on the size of the budget. Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) spoke of his concerns about water storage and homelessness.
“Despite talk of fiscal prudence, our budget is not on a sustainable path. Even a moderate economic downturn could mean disaster. Assembly Republicans want to ensure a strong and stable safety net for vulnerable Californians, improve our schools and keep our neighborhoods safe. To do that we need to spend wisely and not repeat past mistakes,” Mathis said.
“The Governor’s proposed budget increases spending to an alarming $222.2 billion,” said California State Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno). “We have seen California’s $21.5 billion surplus in Fiscal Year 2019-20 drop to an estimated $4 to $7 billion surplus in FY 2020-21, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) 2020 Fiscal Outlook. Should current trends continue, California may enter a recession in the next fiscal year. Therefore, California’s fiscal approach should be prudent and responsible, remembering that investments in infrastructure, disaster preparedness, transportation, housing and water are our most immediate concerns.”
Mathis mentioned the need for infrastructure investments and more public safety dollars.
Newsom’s teacher incentives, which would be given for four years, alone would eat up $100 million, but Newsom said it’s worth the money.
“It’s not that complicated. Train your teachers, make them the best, the brightest, incentivize” he said.
“It’s incredibly important that we have a diverse teaching workforce,” he said, “not only have stable, prepared, professional teachers, but also having a teacher that looks like you. That’s incredibly important, particularly when it comes to African American achievement.”
His immigration proposal would provide health care for 27,000 older low-income immigrants who are in the country illegally.
California last year became the first state to offer full health benefits to low-income adults 25 and younger living in the country illegally. The deep-blue state of nearly 40 million people has about 3 million people who don’t have any health insurance. About 30% of those are living in the country illegally, according to the California Health Care Foundation.
“We can’t solve the health care crisis if we don’t include them as part of the many Californians who are uninsured,” Democratic state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo said in lobbying for benefits to people 65 and older in the country illegally.
In 2016, California offered full health benefits to children 18 and younger regardless of immigration status. Newsom’s proposal continues to keep the state at odds with the federal government’s immigration policies.
“With record funding for education, solid reserves, relief for small businesses, and innovative ideas on climate change, public safety, health care and many other issues, my colleagues and I appreciate the Governor giving us the opportunity to start that process with a budget plan that is already so in sync with California values,” the state’s Democratic Senate leader, Toni Atkins, said in a statement.
Newsom’s budget includes a $5.6 billion surplus and $21 billion in reserves for any economic downturn.
His budget introduction is the first step in approving a spending plan. In May, Newsom will revise his plan once state officials have a better estimate of how much money the state will collect in taxes this year. State lawmakers have until June 15 to vote on the proposal and send it to the governor for his approval. Lawmakers forfeit their pay if they miss the deadline.
Newsom already provided details on key areas of his budget in recent days, outlining steps to curb homelessness, wildfires and the cost of prescription drugs.
He signed an executive order Wednesday creating a proposed $750 million fund to pay rents, fund affordable housing or help board and care homes.
He’s seeking another $695 million in state and federal matching funds for preventive health care, but some of the money could also go to helping people find housing. And he ordered state agencies to free vacant state property to house homeless people.
On Thursday he proposed having California become the first state to make its own prescription drugs, to “take the power out of the hands of greedy pharmaceutical companies.” California would contract with generic drug companies to create a single market for drug pricing.
He separately proposed hiring 555 firefighters over five years and spending $100 million to make homes more resistant to wildfires as part of a $2 billion emergency services budget that also includes flood protection and high-tech mapping including areas prone to wildfires, floods, tsunamis and mudslides.
Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher praised the emergency preparedness proposal but said the state should also allow “expedited environmental review for projects that reduce fire risk.”
The Business Journal contributed to this story.