Newsom's Budget Plan: Stimulus Checks, Reopening Schools

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CALIFORNIA — California leaders made some deep spending cuts to the state's budget last year, bracing for a $54.3 billion shortfall spurred by the pandemic — but that didn't happen. Instead, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the state's most expensive budget in state history, according to multiple reports.

Newsom laid out the $227 billion spending plan on Friday which includes a $15 billion economic relief package as the state faces its worst surge yet of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The windfall came down from California's wealthiest residents and growing tax revenues despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"Folks at the top [are] doing pretty damn well," Newsom said on Friday.

Golden State residents reportedly earned a record $185 billion in capitol gains income, according to the Associated Press. This income, earned by selling stocks, land or a business, generated a $18.5 billion boost in tax revenue for the state.

"In these darkest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, this Budget will help Californians with urgent action to address our immediate challenges and build towards our recovery," Newsom wrote in a statement on Friday.

The budget includes a $5 billion "immediate action package" which Newsom has encouraged lawmakers to act quickly on. The plan includes $2 billion to reopen schools, $575 million in small business grants and fee waivers, and $2.4 billion to place $600 in the hands of roughly 4 million Californians. Those who make $30,000 per year or less will be eligible, the Associated Press reported.

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Newsom also said he plans to inject $372 million into accelerating the administration of coronavirus vaccines, a process that many have argued is taking far too long.

Newsom also plans to invest $90 billion in reopening schools. The fund allocates $2 billion to facilitate a return to in-person instruction, $4.6 billion to support students as they "bounce back from the impacts othe pandemic" and $400 million for school-based mental health services.

The governor said this amount was the highest ever allocated to K-14 schools.

"The Governor's Budget recognizes the stark reality of this incredibly difficult time for the State of California," San Francisco mayor London Breed said in a statement. "In addition to all the challenges we have been facing for years, right now in this moment, our workers, families, and young people are in desperate need of immediate relief. By proposing direct investments to working people, small businesses, and our schools, the Governor is doing just that."

At Friday's news conference, Newsom also acknowledged that the good fortune of some Golden State residents has not benefited everyone.

The employment rate for those making less than $27,000 a year has decreased by 27.8 percent since January, according to Havard University's Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker.

While many Democratic leaders praised the strategy, Republicans criticized the plan, especially a section of the $4 billion COVID-19 recovery package that outlined $1.5 billion to help residents purchase electric cars and install charging stations.

"There are millions of people hurting right now, and they can’t afford a shiny new electric car. They can barely keep the cars they’ve got," Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson said in a Facebook video.

Republican Sen. Melissa Melendez also criticized Newsom for his lack of planning, the Associated Press reported.

"This budget provides no reopening plan nor the necessary relief for small businesses; it provides no successful roadmap to alleviate the growing housing, homelessness and mental health crises; and it provides no actionable help to the millions of school aged children who are falling behind academically,” Melendez said in a statement.

And as the federal government approves the latest stimulus package, even more money is on its way to the Golden State, Newsom said Friday.

California could get more than $100 billion from the federal government with $42.4 billion going directly to Californians as $600 stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. Some $50 billion was slated to help businesses and transportation agencies.

Although Newsom is pleading with lawmakers to quickly approve his "emergency funding" package, lawmakers have until June 15 to review his proposal and vote on it.

This article originally appeared on the Across California Patch

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