ADAM BEAM and DON THOMPSON
California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to give $20,000 stipends to teachers at high needs schools and extend health care to older low-income immigrants who are in the country illegally. He outlined the plans during an announcement Friday of his $329 billion budget proposal.
The Democratic governor is proposing a continued progressive agenda as he defended California’s progress against criticism from national naysayers in the wake of devastating wildfires, widespread power outages and a soaring homeless population.
His proposed budget increases spending by 2.3% or about $5 billion, but also boosts state reserves for any economic downturn. It includes $222 billion in state money and $107 billion in federal funds.
His teacher incentives, which would be given for four years, alone would eat up $100 million, but Newsom said it’s worth the money.
“It’s incredibly important that we have a diverse teaching workforce,” he said, “not only have stable, prepared, professional teachers, but also having a teacher that looks like you. That’s incredibly important, particularly when it comes to African American achievement.”
His immigration proposal would provide health care for 27,000 older low-income immigrants who are in the country illegally.
California last year became the first state to offer full health benefits to low-income adults 25 and younger living in the country illegally. The deep-blue state of nearly 40 million people has about 3 million people who don’t have any health insurance. About 30% of those are living in the country illegally, according to the California Health Care Foundation.
“We can’t solve the health care crisis if we don’t include them,” Democratic state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo said in lobbying for benefits to people 65 and older in the country illegally.
In 2016, California offered full health benefits to children 18 and younger regardless of immigration status. Newsom’s proposal continues to keep the state at odds with the federal government’s immigration policies.
The state’s Democratic Senate leader, Toni Atkins, cited Newsom’s proposal for “record funding for education, solid reserves, relief for small businesses, and innovative ideas on climate change, public safety, health care and many other issues” as part of a budget plan “so in sync with California values.”
Newsom’s budget includes a $5.6 billion surplus and $21 billion in reserves for any economic downturn.
Newsom already provided details on key areas of his budget in recent days, outlining steps to curb homelessness, wildfires and the cost of prescription drugs.
On Friday he declared himself the state’s “homeless czar,” after promising a year ago to appoint one, while striking back at President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of the state’s Democratic leaders for not doing enough.
“He’s tweeting, we’re doing something,” Newsom said. “We don’t need him to identify this problem.”
He signed an executive order Wednesday creating a proposed $750 million fund to pay rents, fund affordable housing or help board and care homes. He’s seeking another $695 million in state and federal matching funds for preventive health care, but some of the money could also go to helping people find housing. And he ordered state agencies to free vacant state property to house homeless people.
Assembly Budget Committee vice chairman Jay Obernolte, a Republican from Hesperia, praised Newsom’s emphasis on homelessness, but said the state must also address housing affordability and the state’s skyrocketing cost of living.
“Both of these problems have their roots in oppressive state government policies, and neither will be solved until we realize that addressing the issue of homelessness requires ensuring that everyone can afford a home rather than simply moving people into shelters.,” Obernolte said in a statement.
On Thursday Newsom proposed having California become the first state to make its own prescription drugs, to “take the power out of the hands of greedy pharmaceutical companies.” California would contract with generic drug companies to create a single market for drug pricing.
He separately proposed hiring 555 firefighters over five years and spending $100 million to make homes more resistant to wildfires as part of a $2 billion emergency services budget that also includes flood protection and high-tech mapping including areas prone to wildfires, floods, tsunamis and mudslides.
His budget introduction is the first step in approving a spending plan. In May, Newsom will revise his plan once state officials have a better estimate of how much money the state will collect in taxes this year. State lawmakers have until June 15 to vote on the proposal and send it to the governor for his approval. Lawmakers forfeit their pay if they miss the deadline.