Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election, wants to use the state’s sizable budget surplus to put money in the majority of Californians’ pockets.
The governor today will unveil an $11.9 billion proposal that would send $600 stimulus checks to two-thirds of Californians and an additional $500 to families with kids. Details, including who would qualify, were unavailable late Sunday, although Newsom’s office said the payments would benefit the middle class as well as low-income residents.
If approved by the Legislature, the plan would triple the size of the Golden State Stimulus package Newsom signed into law in February. That package included one-time $600 payments for an estimated 5.7 million residents who receive the state’s earned income tax credit and an extra $600 for low-income undocumented taxpayers.
The new plan also would include payments for families, building on the expanded child tax credit in the recent federal stimulus package that experts say could cut the Golden State’s child poverty in half.
Newsom’s office is promoting it as “the biggest state tax rebate in American history,” part of a $100 billion economic recovery package to address “five of the state’s most stubborn challenges.” Newsom will unveil the rest of the relief plan this week before officially presenting on Friday his revamped state budget, which accounts for a larger-than-expected surplus that emerged after his initial budget proposal in January. That will kick off another round of negotiations with lawmakers — who have their own ideas for how the state should spend its surplus — before the June 15 deadline to pass the budget.
The other four “stubborn challenges” remain to be seen, but Newsom is under pressure from advocates to address mounting utility debt — Californians’ unpaid water bills total $1 billion — expand rent relief and extend the state’s soon-to-expire eviction moratorium.
Newsom previewed another major budget proposal in a Mother’s Day video message shared on Sunday: He wants to fund 100,000 more child care slots, invest millions of dollars in child care providers and families, and direct $200 million to support career pathways for home health care workers. The governor has long emphasized families and mothers in his budget proposals, but he’s also likely trying to shore up key Democratic support ahead of the recall election.
Some child care providers still haven’t received relief payments promised by the state, and at least 8,500 licensed child care sites have shuttered amid the pandemic, straining parents and throwing providers — who are disproportionately women of color — out of work.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,654,545 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 61,228 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
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Other stories you should know
1. Gun violence surge keeps surging
Eight people were killed or wounded in five separate shootings in Oakland over the weekend, the latest indication that the surge of gun violence that swept across California in 2020 isn’t abating as the state reopens. In some cases, it’s getting worse: In Los Angeles, shootings are up 67% and homicides up 26% compared to last year, when the city recorded its largest death toll in more than a decade. Oakland police have investigated 48 homicides this year compared to 20 at the same time last year, when the city saw a 36% increase in homicides.
- Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore: “It’s frankly too many guns in too many hands.”
Ironically, the state announced Friday that it issued a record 1,285 restraining orders last year to temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed a danger to themselves or others. However, California last year also saw a sharp uptick in the number of residents who have guns despite being legally prohibited from owning them. These competing figures make it difficult to discern the effectiveness of California’s strict gun laws and how they interact with each other — an exercise made even more challenging by former Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s refusal to disclose gun violence data from a taxpayer-funded research center.
The data wasn’t made available until late April, when Rob Bonta took over as attorney general. Bonta on Friday also pledged to accelerate the release of police use-of-force and misconduct records after being served an order from a San Francisco superior court.
2. Population falls for first time in history
California’s population shrank in 2020 for the first time in recorded history, a development sure to drive narratives about the Golden State’s decline as it also grapples with the fallout of losing a seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in history. Figures released Friday by the state Department of Finance show that California’s population dropped by more than 182,000 people last year, a change officials attribute to more than 51,000 COVID-19 deaths and declines in immigration amid the coronavirus lockdowns and the restrictive policies of former President Donald Trump, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.
- Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer: “Going forward, we anticipate that those … factors that tipped us temporarily into negative territory are going to change over the next few months.”
Still, a dramatic reversal is unlikely. Pre-pandemic, California was already facing its slowest population growth in more than a century, with more people moving out than moving in and declining birth rates. Lower- and middle-income residents are leaving California or moving to more affordable areas within it as home prices hit record highs, a trend reflected in the new data: San Francisco and Los Angeles’ population dropped, while the Central Valley’s and Inland Empire’s grew.
3. Battle to vaccinate kids
The next hurdle on California’s path to herd immunity: vaccinating teenagers and children. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expected to authorize COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 12-15 as early as this week, California has decided to streamline the process for pediatricians — but will likely face significant parental concerns. Only 30% of U.S. parents with kids ages 12-15 would get their children inoculated as soon as the vaccine is approved, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday. The survey results came a day after the Orange County Board of Education approved a statement opposing mandatory student vaccinations and vaccine passports.
- The school board: “Schools are for inculcating facts and knowledge, and not advancing vaccination mandates for children who are at very little risk of the COVID-19 pathogen.”
Meanwhile, high schools in San Diego and elsewhere are hosting clinics to encourage students 16 and older to get the vaccine, and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara County is offering Starbucks and Chipotle gift cards to the first 100 people ages 16 to 19 who attend “student night” clinics. So far, just 32% of Californians ages 16 and 17 have received at least one shot, compared to 60% of the overall eligible population.
- Dr. Howard Taras, a UC San Diego pediatrician: “Children will likely be the largest reservoir of infection at some point, especially if we are successful at vaccinating a large portion of adults. So as soon as vaccine becomes available to them, we need to take the opportunity and immunize them.”
4. Dry state gets drier
California is bone-dry and getting drier. Here’s a look at some eye-popping statistics compiled in the Sacramento Bee:
- 93% of the state is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s up from 66% just last month.
- The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which can provide up to 60% of the state’s water, is at 10% of its average level for this time of year.
- Every rice farmer in the Sacramento Valley — which produces 97% of the state’s rice crop — is facing a minimum 25% water reduction after the federal government last week halted already reduced shipments.
The parched conditions do not bode well for California as it heads into fire season. The Sacramento Valley and Bay Area spent the weekend under a red flag warning — the second issued in May in state history — set to last through Tuesday as dry, powerful winds whip across the region. The gusts helped spread small wildfires across Northern California and one large fire in Butte County that forced residents to evacuate for several hours on Saturday and destroyed some outbuildings.
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TOMORROW: The Post-COVID Future of Work. Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute for a discussion on how California’s economic recovery can prioritize diversity, inclusion and innovative workforce development. Register here.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be easing in California, but its effects will worsen the state’s housing crisis.
Don’t make reopening harder: Supporting premium pay laws pushed by special interests will force store closures, cause job losses and result in a higher cost of living, argue Rachel Michelin of the California Retailers Association and Robert Rivinius of the Family Business Association of California.
Reform electricity rates: California must address its high electricity prices to ensure all residents can cash in on clean, electric technologies, write Colleen Kredell of Next 10 and Meredith Fowlie and James Sallee of the Energy Institute at Haas at UC Berkeley.
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Other things worth your time
Will the California housing revolution be Zoomed? // Mercury News
Could a San Francisco experiment be an answer to Los Angeles’ street encampments? // Los Angeles Times
California mobile home owners say they’re ‘hostages’ to land rent increases. // Mercury News
California high schoolers are saying no thanks to reopened campuses and staying home. // Los Angeles Times
Will California women bounce back from COVID unemployment? // Los Angeles Times
Newsom appoints members to task force studying reparations for Black Californians. // CBS San Francisco
Burned by the Lincoln Project, exiled by the GOP. What’s next for this California Republican? // Sacramento Bee
Is Garcetti going? City Hall waits with Los Angeles at a crossroads. // Los Angeles Times
Calbright College once again faces opposition that seeks to shut it down. // EdSource
Northern California police agency arrests 2 of its own in 2 days. // San Francisco Chronicle
Did a Tesla drive itself through Oakland? CHP investigating ‘unusual incident.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
Ocean protection bill would ban new offshore drilling in Southern California. // San Diego Union-Tribune
3 more dead gray whales reported In San Francisco Bay. // SFGATE
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