The Ocean County Register Editorial Board calls Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget irresponsible, saying it was as big and as unruly as the nearly three-hour news conference he held to unveil it.
“Like many things the new governor proposes, his budget is filled with grandiose promises and backed by lofty rhetoric,” the board wrote.
Other critics note it’s the same approach that hasn’t worked previously: raising taxes to throw more money at problems when doing so in the past hasn’t solved them.
The proposed $222 billion budget increases spending by 2.3 percent. It also relies on an additional $107 billion in money from the federal government.
The spending plan is the largest in state history.
The state projects a $5.6 billion surplus, which helps add to its Rainy Day Fund. The budget also adds $3 billion to the state’s pension fund.
"The budget is not a what, it is not a why – it is a how document," Newsom said, which lawmakers have until June 15 to pass.
The bill creates several new funds administered by bureaucratic agencies.
The budget allocates $1 billion toward affordable housing, including a new California Access to Housing and Services Fund, and $750 million toward new affordable housing units and subsidies for rentals. An additional $500 million will pay for California’s housing tax credit program every year, he said.
The budget also incorporates mental health initiatives in the Medi-Cal system and the Medi-Cal Healthier California for All initiative by creating a task force to improve and strengthen the behavioral health system. Medi-Cal coverage will also become available to residents over age 65 regardless of citizenship status.
Newsom also announced the state might be the first to create a state-owned generic drug label – CalRx. His administration is already negotiating with major purchasers, which he hopes to announce in a "detailed spring proposal" that will also require legislative support.
Some highlights of education spending include $900 million for teacher training and new programs to "improve the teacher workforce," $300 million in one-time grants for low-performing schools, and a 40 percent increase in school nutrition funding.
Despite the state allocating $1 billion for emergency response to fire disasters last year, California experienced some of the worst wildfires in its history. This year’s budget allocates $100 million to protect homes in fire-prone areas, increases the use of Light Detection and Ranging data, and funds the creation of a new Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center.
The $2 billion budget for emergency services also includes improvements to the state’s early-alert system for earthquakes and invests in flood protection.
The budget also proposes spending $12 billion over the next five years to finance a newly proposed "Climate Catalyst Fund." Of this, $250 million is dedicated to helping small businesses and emerging markets for new technologies that focus on climate change.
Administered by the Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, $1 billion over the next four years will initially finance projects focusing on new low-carbon transportation options and sustainable agriculture.
Newsom says he plans to reduce the prison population and implement new prison policies modeled on the Norwegian prison system. For example, the initiative would group 5,800 offenders under age 26 in "campus-style environments."
The budget also creates a new Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages, a new agency to oversee the state’s cannabis regulation, and a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Newsom also proposed spending $53 billion over the next five years on statewide infrastructure projects.