Governor Newsom and Democratic Legislators Struggling to Reach a Budget Agreement

Written by Michael Palomba

California is facing a massive budget deficit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and last week Gov. Newsom proclaimed that he would cut $14 billion from safety net programs, healthcare, and even schools if the federal government doesn’t provide aid to the state. He also threatened to release inmates to reduce prison expenses and said that first responders would be the first to be laid off by counties suffering financially.

It seems that Gov. Newsom went too far, and now he is receiving bipartisan pushback.

According to Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat, Newsom’s approach ignored “pure science in favor of political science.” It “feels like an over-dependence on the federal government.” Wood said. “If you are aged, poor or disabled, this budget is devastating.”

That leaves California “waiting on federal aid that may or may not come,” said Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson. “If this financial aid does not materialize, what is the Plan B?”

Assemblyman Adam Gray suggested permitting sports betting and raising taxes on electronic cigarettes and lottery winnings. “It certainly won’t solve our budget crisis, but given the incredible impacts of the coronavirus on our bottom line, these proposals provide some flexibility,” Gray said.

Many lawmakers have also called into question whether Gov. Newsom’s $54 billion budget deficit is accurate or just a worse case scenario. Providing the worst case scenario invokes fear and could give Newsom a lot more leverage over decisions of the Legislature.

The new budget must be officially submitted by June 15 and approved by the Legislature by June 30. That leaves Newsom and the State Legislature limited time to reach an agreement. With astronomical unemployment levels and political tensions at an all time high, the last thing California needs is a government shutdown over the state budget.