In summary

Several revenue proposals are on the table for California to confront the crises created by systemic inequities compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Bob Schoonover and

Bob Schoonover is president of SEIU California and SEIU Local 721, bob.schoonover@seiu721.org.

E. Toby Boyd, Special to CalMatters

E.Toby Boyd is president of the California Teachers Association, tboyd@cta.org.

There’s a reason Gov. Gavin Newsom will be speaking to the Democratic National Convention tonight, as Joe Biden accepts the party nomination. This nation, reeling from the effects of a pandemic and its legacy of systemic racism, is starved for leadership.

That is a quality Newsom has demonstrated in abundance. Whether it was in becoming the first governor to order a statewide lockdown to blunt the initial surge of COVID-19 or stepping out as mayor of San Francisco to lead the nation on marriage equality, Newsom has shown he can be unafraid.

Newsom’s moment as a rising star in the spotlight comes as California faces dire circumstances that need bold leadership.

This public health crisis has called into sharp focus the structural inequities that plague California. Black and brown workers whose jobs have been essential to keep the economy functioning are being ravaged by a virus that thrives in the close quarters of the factories, fields and packing houses in which they work.

Many of their children have no access to distance learning, and their schools face gaping needs before there is any hope of safely reopening.

The full reckoning of damage wrought by the COVID-19 crisis lies still ahead – in communities of color with soaring unemployment facing massive evictions and foreclosures, in a health care system still lacking the equipment needed to successfully tackle the virus and protect workers, and in growing months of in-person instruction lost to our students.

California’s working class is hurting and needs help. As we learned from the Great Recession, state budget deficits imperil vital services for years. Cuts devastate seniors, children, single mothers, people with disabilities, immigrants and communities of color.

As Newsom has observed, California is both America’s richest state and its poorest.  The coronavirus has amplified that inequity to a deafening roar.

One analysis shows that over the first three months of the pandemic, the net worth of California’s 154 billionaires jumped by more than 25%.

Meanwhile, it is low-wage workers, Californians of color and middle class families who have been pummeled hardest as the state lost nearly 2 million jobs.

There is capacity in California to confront the multiple, overlapping crises created by systemic inequities compounded by a pandemic. There is the opportunity to develop a comprehensive and urgent plan to invest necessary resources into our public health systems, our educational systems, and worker safety. We need Newsom’s leadership to make any of today’s proposals a reality.

Proposition 15 on the November ballot, the Schools and Communities First initiative, would raise about $10 billion annually for schools and local governments by allowing commercial properties worth $3 million or more to be taxed at their actual market value.

The California Legislature passed a state budget counting on $14 billion in federal relief – yet the U.S. Senate just recessed without delivering a single-dollar to crisis-strapped states. Waiting for President Donald Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step up and do the right thing by our schools and working families is a pipe dream. It’s up to us. That’s why Newsom must call a special legislative session to focus on taxing the super wealthy and investing in an equitable recovery

Several proposals are already on the table.  One would increase income taxes for the 70,000 households earning more than $1 million per year. The other would create a wealth tax of 0.4% on the net worth of 30,000 households holding at least $30 million in net assets, excluding real estate. 

These represent opportunities to invest in California’s recovery now and prevent today’s crises from becoming long-term catastrophes.

We need Newsom-style leadership to take on the naysayers, meet the moment and show the country how a nation-state like California rises to the occasion. California cannot wait for the prospect of new leadership in Washington.

If ever there was a moment for fearless leadership, Governor Newsom, this is it.

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