In summary

Higher taxes will be on California voters’ ballots in November, but the pandemic could seriously impact the chances of such measures succeeding.

Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, June 18.

Tax fatigue vs. looming budget cuts

California economy
Image via iStock

As Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature continue to negotiate a budget, some cities are floating new taxes to stave off cuts to public programs, while state tax hikes on the November ballot are taking on a new meaning in light of California’s projected $54 billion deficit.

Will California voters, millions of whom have lost their jobs amid the pandemic-induced recession and who already showed severe signs of tax fatigue in March, support taxes in November?

A June statewide survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 60% of likely voters oppose tax increases.

But with the state potentially facing $14 billion in cuts to public education, health and safety net programs, proponents of November state ballot measures that would raise billions of dollars in revenue say such initiatives are more necessary than ever.

One of the highest-profile measures, the Schools & Communities First initiative, would raise $12 billion for local governments and public schools by nixing the protections of Prop. 13, the landmark 1978 measure that capped property taxes, for commercial property owners. Another initiative would also amend Prop. 13 by preventing children from inheriting their deceased parents’ low property taxes for homes that weren’t used as primary residences.

Though Newsom hasn’t ruled out the idea of tax increases, he also hasn’t endorsed the Schools & Communities First initiative. However, other lawmakers have.

  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed: “Any local official will have a tough time explaining to their constituents why, in the midst of this crisis, they didn’t support closing corporate tax loopholes to bring more resources back locally for our schools and local communities.”

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters weighs in: The end game of California’s state budget will likely be a battle over taxes.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 157,015 confirmed coronavirus cases and 5,208 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. CA community colleges win suit against Trump administration

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland in 2017. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland in 2017. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

California notched another legal win against the Trump administration Wednesday when a federal judge ruled illegal its restriction of federal stimulus funds to more than half of the state’s 1.5 million community college students, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports. Now undocumented students, DACA recipients, and students otherwise ineligible for federal aid can receive the funds to help cover rent, food and school supplies amid the pandemic. (California community colleges received stimulus funding based on enrollment, including students barred from accessing the aid.) The U.S. Department of Education said it will appeal the decision.

2. How Fresno is confronting its history of systemic racism

Discarded trash near a homeless encampment in West Fresno on June 8. Photo by Craig Kohlruss, The Fresno Bee

Systemic racism is tied up in the daily lives and physical environment of the residents of West Fresno, a majority of whom are black and Latino. Decades of disinvestment, discriminatory city planning, redlining and neglect have led to over half of its residents living below the poverty line. Parks and homes were torn up to make room for freeways; businesses and banks were replaced by landfills and slaughterhouses, the Fresno Bee’s Manuela Tobias reports in a CalMatters collaboration. But residents have poured their hearts into securing a better future for the community, including a new satellite college campus, a 10-acre park, a strip of businesses and new apartments and single-family homes.

  • Laneesha Senegal, executive director of Helping Others Pursue Excellence: “We want to be able to see our assets we can be proud of. That belong to us. We don’t own anything.”

3. California’s nursing home COVID-19 data a “tangled mess”

Jeannie Richards, left, and her sitter Carol Soward, both of Hayward, and their brother Donald Soward look each other through his room window during a visit at the Gateway Nursing home in Hayward Saturday, May 16, 2020. Soward contracted COVID-19 at the care facility while recovering from a leg amputation. Photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group
Jeannie Richards, left, and her sister Carol Soward look at their brother Donald Soward through a window at the Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center in Hayward on May 16. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group

It’s nearly impossible for the public to know for sure how many COVID-19 fatalities or cases any one of California’s 1,224 nursing homes has on any given day, thanks to a tangled and inconsistent web of county, state and federal data, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports. A CalMatters data analysis found the state has both over- and underreported deaths and cases for individual homes. This is problematic not only for those who need to move a family member into a nursing home or monitor relatives already there, but also for doctors and therapists who visit the homes and lawmakers trying to assess if their policies are effective.

  • Mike Dark of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform: “What you have is many facilities who see COVID reporting as a business problem that could hurt future profits, so they don’t have an incentive to report. And they’re not being caught.”

CalMatters commentary

Where to draw the line on statue removal? In a democracy, voting is a good way to take a temperature of the times and to make decisions on who stays and who goes, argues Joel Fox of Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy.

A tale of two cities: The chasm between COVID-19 cases in Alameda and Oakland is a microcosm of the ethnic, racial and class health disparities raging across the country, writes Stacy Torres, a UCSF sociology professor.

CA legislation would harm African wildlife: Senate Bill 1175 is based on an uninformed, emotional viewpoint held by some Western lawmakers and anti-hunting activists, argues Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya, director general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Basic disruption of Central Valley hydrology: “Feeding the world” is killing the San Francisco Bay watershed and could eventually wipe out even the agricultural wealth of the great Central Valley, writes James Brobeck, a water policy analyst for AquAlliance.

Other things worth your time

COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU admissions increasing in certain parts of California. // Los Angeles Times

Italian American leaders want to discuss removal of Christopher Columbus statue with California lawmakers. // Politico

California spent more than $38 million on CHP officers at George Floyd protests. // San Francisco Chronicle

At least 10 of the 98 cities where protesters were tear-gassed were in California. // New York Times

Oakland to investigate potential hate crimes after nooses found hanging in trees around Lake Merritt. // SF Gate

COVID-19 could close 75% of California’s outdoor science education programs. // CapRadio


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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...