Black Caucus Members Dig Deeper Into Newsom’s 2024-25 Budget
Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Since Gov. Gavin Newsom presented his 2024-25 budget to the State Legislature on Jan. 10, lawmakers — including members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) — have been sharing their initial reactions to potential cuts.
Those stakeholders have also been examining the Governor’s $291 billion spending plan to get a clearer sense of how funding adjustments may impact families as the state faces a deficit estimated at tens of billions of dollars.
A day after Newsom announced his budget, Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), reacted with a post on his Facebook page.
“Yesterday’s budget proposal for human services programs causes me to be alarmed for our most vulnerable populations particularly in our CalWorks, Development Disability, and Foster Care programs,” wrote Jackson, who is a member of the CLBC.
“I will be using the next few months to review its impact from a social work lens. My priority is to ensure that this budget promotes stability and keeps people out of a state of crisis and on a path to thrive as the Governor has done for both the CalFresh and Childcare programs,” promised Jackson.
Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), also a member CLBC hosted a 60-minute Budget Townhall Webinar on Jan. 17 to discuss the budget and the forecasted deficit.
The webinar was presented to give the public an idea of budget cuts, budget proposals, and potential tax increases.
“This is really the beginning of conversations in the legislature and our conversation with the governor,” Weber said. “Once the May revision comes out after taxes have been done, we’ll have a better sense of where we are and what the budget will be.”
Webinar participants submitted a variety of questions concerning the budget such as how education funding will be impacted, strategies to address the budget shortfall, and will the deficit lead to tax increases and undermine progress made in housing the homeless and other social services programs.
During the webinar, Christian Griffith, Chief Consultant of the Assembly Budget Committee – responsible for directing the Assembly’s state budget process – said Newsom’s proposal involves spending reduction, spending delays, usage of reserves borrowing, and usage of the “special fund.”
“Reduction usually gets the most attention,” Griffith said.
The LAO – a nonpartisan government agency that provides fiscal and policy advice to the California Legislature – said the state budget estimates based on tax revenue are imprecise due to the IRS delaying tax filings in California until Nov. 16, 2023, because of natural disasters the state faced last year.
Griffith said the “budget problem” could create a financial burden on the state for a few more years. It was assumed that the state had a surplus of “$100 million two years in a row” but actually had $60 billion,” Griffith said.
“The main thing, a really big problem here, is not only do we have this problem right now, but we also project for the next three or four years that every year we are going to be spending $30 billion more than we take in revenue. We have a structural problem,” he said. “The easy thing is trying to find one-time money to plug a hole. The hard thing is when you have that structural thing where you’re always paying on that credit card every year.”
Funding for state initiatives that are likely to be cut or delayed include some climate change programs, housing programs, school facilities, higher education student housing loans, UCLA Immunology Institute, Middle-Class Scholarship financial aid programs, and more.
Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), who is a member of the CLBC, said, despite looming cuts she remains confident because the state has a cushion of nearly $18 billion in cash in its various reserves often called “rainy-day funds.”
“Thank God for California’s rainy-day fund! Kudos to former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom for their foresight,” McKinnor posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “They’ve been tucking away funds, and in 2024-2025, it’s going to pour! Ready to weather any budget shortfalls with our well-fed piggy bank!”
Last week, the California Budget and Policy Center (CBPC) analysis of Newsom’s budget was positive, stating that the budget “protected or maintained” programs that provide economic security, particularly for lower-income families.
“California has the wealth and state leaders have the tools and resources to further protect essential services and build upon earlier progress,” the CBPC report stated.
One of the questions posed during the webinar hosted by Weber involved Proposition 98, the minimum funding level for Schools, which guarantees funding for kindergarten through the 12 grades and community colleges. Griffin said they should not be any trimming of the total education allocation, which is expected to be $109 billion, according to the budget.
The day before Newsom presented his proposal, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Ella Baker Center launched a campaign focused on protecting budget spending for their priority programs called #SmartSolutions.
At a news conference held on the grounds of the Capitol, members from those organizations called on state leaders to focus limited resources on solutions that address root causes of crime and to enhance public safety for all Californians. CLBC Assemblymembers Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Isaac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights) spoke about the danger of underfunding of housing, healthcare, criminal justice reform and other programs that are critical in Black and Brown communities.
“I like to remind you that every dollar we spend criminalizing poverty is a dollar we could’ve better spent ending it,” Bryan said.