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Today, as millions of Californians rush to file their tax returns and apply for tax credits, state lawmakers are returning to Sacramento from an 11-day spring recess — and preparing to resume negotiations over the best way to put money back in residents’ pockets.

The two events are interrelated: The amount of tax revenue collected by the state will help determine the size, form and scope of the financial relief on which Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators finally settle.

But Tax Day is also a reminder of the staggering divide between California’s haves and have-nots, which the state’s progressive tax structure brings out in stark relief: In 2019, the fewer than 100,000 Californians who earned at least $1 million paid about 40% of the state’s personal income taxes, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

  • By contrast, 77% of Californians who filed income tax returns that year reported an income of less than $100,000 — and 50% reported earnings below $50,000.

The financial precarity many Californians experience was highlighted in a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times:

  • 64% of California voters said they pay too much in state and federal income taxes, up 10 percentage points from six years ago.
  • 42% of voters said they’re financially worse off than they were a year ago, double the 21% who said they were better off — the opposite of 2016, when about 48% of voters said they were financially better off than they were the prior year, nearly double the 25% who reported they were doing worse.

And even as California’s tight labor market helps some workers score higher wages — unions representing 47,000 grocery workers ratified a new contract Thursday that includes their biggest pay raises in decades — a whopping 8.5% year-over-year rise in the cost of goods is eating into those gains.

Soaring inflation rates will make it harder for California to keep up the job gains it saw in March, said Michael Bernick, a former director of the state Employment Development Department and an attorney at Duane Morris.

  • The state’s jobless rate fell to 4.9% in March — down from a revised rate of 5.3% in February — as the state added 60,200 nonfarm payroll jobs, EDD announced Friday.
  • Newsom: EDD’s report “is more good news for California’s continued economic recovery, representing thousands of new opportunities for workers throughout the state.”
  • Bernick: “We’re likely to see a far greater slowdown in job growth throughout 2022 as the impacts of inflationary government spending begin to be felt.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,536,943 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 88,907 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 74,133,081 vaccine doses, and 75.1% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. Housing: the root of CA’s problems

A city-sanctioned safe sleeping site is seen in Civic Center in San Francisco on May 20, 2020. Photo by Yichuan Cao, Sipa USA via Reuters
A city-sanctioned safe sleeping site in Civic Center in San Francisco on May 20, 2020. Photo by Yichuan Cao, Sipa USA via Reuters

Of course, you can’t talk about financial precarity in California without talking about the astronomically high cost of housing. Two weekend San Francisco Chronicle reports illuminate the extent to which housing underlies many of the state’s policy and political debates, such as:

Still, state officials continue to zero in on housing and homelessness:

But the challenges are persistent. San Francisco’s system for prioritizing housing for its most vulnerable homeless residents seems designed to fail, ProPublica reports. Orange County has an “unprecedented” amount of federal housing vouchers, but is struggling to find landlords willing to accept them. And homelessness has permeated Fresno, historically one of the most affordable places to live in California.

2. Dahle talks hot issues with CalMatters

State Sen. Brian Dahle, who’s running for California governor, answers questions from CalMatters reporters in Sacramento on April 5, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Never fear, CalMatters’ Voter Guide for the June 7 primary is here! Today, we released our comprehensive, interactive, better-than-ever guide to all that you need to know for the quickly approaching election. And, as a sneak preview, here are five key takeaways from CalMatters’ 90-minute interview with GOP state Sen. Brian Dahle, the Lassen County farmer seeking to unseat Newsom. We’ll unveil our interviews with some other statewide candidates in the coming weeks.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

  • One of Dahle’s pledges: to be much more accessible to lawmakers — both Democratic and Republican — than Newsom has been. “They’ll have more access to the horseshoe than they do now. … I will have every single legislator in my office when I’m governor and we will talk about their district and we will talk about the challenges and we will find places we can work together.”

Other election news you should know:

  • On Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney and former supervisor David Campos will duke it out in a special election runoff for the state Assembly seat David Chiu vacated to become San Francisco city attorney.
  • Democratic software executive Dan O’Dowd, a California U.S. Senate candidate, is set this week to launch a $650,000 ad blitz attacking Elon Musk and Tesla’s rival self-driving technology. But although O’Dowd says he’s not actually trying to unseat Sen. Alex Padilla, who’s running for reelection after being appointed by Newsom, some Democratic party officials are concerned nevertheless, Politico reports.
  • A plastics battle is brewing in California: An initiative to limit the manufacture of single-use plastics and tax their producers is eligible for the November ballot, but could be headed off by a similar bill making its way through the Legislature, the Los Angeles Times reports. Lawmakers, however, rejected bills to restrict single-use plastics in both 2019 and 2020.

3. California crime updates

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg reads the names of the shooting victims during a vigil at Ali Youssefi Square on April 4, 2022. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group

Smiley Martin, the highest-profile suspect named so far in connection with the April 3 Sacramento gang shootout that killed six and injured 12, was denied parole in 2021 because he posed “an unreasonable risk of violence to the community,” according to state prison documents filed in court Friday and viewed by the Sacramento Bee. According to the state Board of Parole Hearings filing, Martin committed battery on another inmate and “engaged in criminal activity” while in prison, and “has demonstrated ongoing criminal thinking and behavior … despite prior incarceration and rehabilitative attempts.”

  • The documents raise further questions as how Martin was able to accumulate enough good conduct and post-sentencing credits to spend just four years in prison despite a 10-year sentence.
  • Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office is now seeking to block Martin from being released on bail once he’s out of the hospital — where he’s being treated for gunshot wounds — and booked into jail.
  • New court filings from Schubert’s office also say Martin used a fully automatic weapon to fire 28 rounds of ammunition during the shootout, and say three of the six people killed were affiliated with local gangs.

In other criminal justice news:

  • Attorney General Rob Bonta and local law enforcement officers on Friday announced 47 felony arrests — including 17 related to human trafficking and pimping — following a lengthy investigation into Fresno street gangs.
  • Police are searching for 18-year-old Ike Souzer, an “extremely dangerous and violent criminal.” Souzer removed his electronic monitoring bracelet hours after his early release Wednesday from a maximum security Orange County prison, where he spent five years after being convicted of fatally stabbing his mother.
  • And as crime continues to play a central role in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, a former top prosecutor in the district attorney office’s sex crimes division is suing the county over George Gascón’s management style, alleging he demoted her after she implemented his controversial policies in a case that received critical media attention, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
  • The California Department of Justice is facing its own lawsuit: Last week, Special Agent in Charge R. Capello filed a complaint accusing it of “a persistent pattern of gender discrimination and retaliation.”

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The California politician most responsible for allowing violent felons to serve only portions of their prison sentences: former Gov. Jerry Brown.

California must prioritize people over parking: State lawmakers should pass Assembly Bill 2097, which would help create more affordable housing by eliminating parking requirements in areas with access to good public transit, argues San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

Other things worth your time

California churches celebrate Easter in-person after 2 pandemic years. // Sacramento Bee

L.A. Unified’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate in question. // Los Angeles Times

Oakland school district lifts indoor mask mandate for last month of classes. // San Francisco Chronicle

California college students with kids could get first pick of classes if new bill passes. // Sacramento Bee

Mental health hotline numbers would appear on California college student IDs if bill passes. // EdSource

Mayor Breed promised to bring tough love to the troubled Tenderloin. Did she deliver? // San Francisco Chronicle

Anaheim clamps down on motels accused of attracting drug dealing and prostitution. // Los Angeles Times

Judge: 5 Oakland officers wrongly fired in killing of homeless man. // Associated Press

Oakland’s first big experiment in diverting 911 calls to mental health teams has launched. // San Francisco Chronicle

Modesto approves mental health pros with cops on crisis calls. // Modesto Bee

Rick Caruso’s role in the 2002 rejection of a Black LAPD chief created a furor. // Los Angeles Times

Caruso says he paid $1.6 million in income tax over 5 years, but won’t release returns. // Los Angeles Times

Google will invest billions in California, Bay Area gets big chunk. // Mercury News

Ski resorts cheer as spring storm dumps snow in California. // Associated Press

Ex-Central California water manager accused of stealing $25 million in water. // Los Angeles Times

Controversial water pipeline takes center stage in Kings County election. // San Joaquin Valley Sun

Newsom’s drought order brings ag well activity to a standstill in some areas. // Bakersfield Californian

As drought hammers Mono Lake, thirsty Los Angeles must look elsewhere for water. // Los Angeles Times

A vast California lake is set to run dry. Scientists are scrambling to save its endangered fish. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento’s Natomas Basin is dangerously prone to flooding. How Washington aims to help. // Sacramento Bee

His neighbors tried to save him. But the system was too broken. // Mercury News

Feds agree to return $1.1 million in pot proceeds seized by San Bernardino County deputies. // San Bernardino Sun

California Medical Board to investigate 2-year-old’s death at John Muir Medical Center. // San Francisco Chronicle

California lawmaker proposes official state milkshake. // California Globe

See you tomorrow.

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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...