SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget plan calls for using $15 billion of surging tax returns for economic relief.
The governor’s $227.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021-22, released Friday, comes as he notes the state is facing "a challenge the likes of which we never expected" due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom said the budget addresses five urgent needs: Vaccinating people against coronavirus, reopening schools, supporting small businesses, getting money into people's pockets and preparing for wildfires, for which he includes $1 billion.
Newsom said, “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. As always, our budget is built on our core California values of inclusion, economic growth and a brighter future for all. The budget makes progress towards the goal I set when taking office to harness California’s spirit of innovation and resilience and put the California Dream within reach of more Californians. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact these critical immediate and longer-term priorities for our state for the 40 million who call the Golden State home.”
The governor’s plan marks a sharp turn as lawmakers were forced to make cuts in the summer to make up a shortfall in the midst of the pandemic.
Key highlights of Gov. Newsom’s budget plan:
COVID-19 pandemic response
Newsom’s plan proposes $372 million to “speed up administration of vaccines across all of California’s 58 counties, bolstering the state’s all-hands-on-deck approach to swift and safe vaccine distribution.”
Golden State Stimulus
The governor said $2.4 billion will go towards the Golden State Stimulus -- $600 payments to “low-income workers who were eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2019, as well as 2020 Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers.”
Investing in California
The governor’s plan calls for an investment in the state’s economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic. The proposal includes financial relief for those who lost jobs or small businesses in need, eviction protections, and grants for small businesses.
According to Newsom, $777.5 million is earmarked for what is being called a California Jobs Initiative, “which focuses on job creation and retention, regional development, small businesses and climate innovation."
The governor is hoping to accelerate the reopening of schools across the state for in-person learning, proposing $2 billion to support the phased reopening effort -- starting in February -- “with priority for returning the youngest children (transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade) and those with the greatest needs first.
The plan also calls for $4.6 billion to aid students impacted by the pandemic through expanded learning opportunities and new programs, and $400 million for school-based mental health services.
Natural disaster preparation
The proposed budget sets aside $143 million for 30 new state fire crews and $48 million towards new helicopters and large air tankers to help battle wildfires. Newsom’s budget also proposes $1 billion “to support a coordinated forest health and fire prevention strategy.”
The governor’s office said the state is “operating with a $15 billion surplus.”