SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom presented his budget proposal to the state Legislature Monday.
It's the first step in the complex process of spending the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes Californians and businesses pay each year.
The budget proposal includes record spending on some categories as the state deals with what Newsom calls five existential threats.
Those five threats, according to Newsom, are fighting COVID, combatting the climate crisis, confronting homelessness, tackling the cost of living and keeping streets safe.
Newsom proposed devoting $2.7 billion to continue fighting COVID-19. The funding, previewed by Newsom's office Saturday, will expand hours and capacity at testing sites, distribute millions of COVID-19 antigen tests to schools, offices of education, community clinics, and local health departments.
The proposal calls for creating in-home vaccination and testing programs, distributing resources for health care systems, and increasing public health humanitarian efforts at the California-Mexico border.
California’s Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly praised some of Newsom’s budget proposals during a press conference Monday saying in part, “The blueprint in the Health & Human Services Agency Area is nothing short of bold.”
Dr. Ghaly says he hopes some of Newsom's proposed funding for combatting COVID can be made available soon, to help the state's current omicron surge.
Under Newsom's proposed budget, the state will spend a record amount on climate change.
$22.5 billion is being proposed to spend on climate change which will include investments in drought prevention, zero-emission vehicles, forest health, fire protection and emergency response.
To address forest health and fire protection, Newsom is allocating $2.7 billion. Part of the funding will go towards creating a new office of wildfire technology.
“It is necessary to combat the ravages of the extremes and issues relating to wildfires," Newsom said.
While the proposal includes money aimed at preventing wildfires, republican leaders believe not enough is being done on forest management and cleaning.
"We have dry lands, we have cataclysmic forest fires that are a product of the accumulated fuel and we need to be putting more resources," Republican Senator Jim Nielsen said. "The governor is doing some of that — not nearly enough though — in terms of forest and wildland management."
California's continuing drought is also a top concern for Newsom, designating $750 million in funding to address drought prevention. $500 million will go towards water conservation efforts and other immediate drought support.
"We are mindful of our need to do better to be prepared, not only for the short-term, medium, but long term realities of a world that is being replumbed literally and figuratively as it relates to the extremes of weather," Newsom said.
Republicans, however, say Newsom failed to advance the state's water storage abilities.
"In terms of the drought, we did not dedicate nearly enough resources to above ground and underground storage," Senator Nielsen said. "Either in the energy area or in water, we can not conserve our way into the future."
During his presentation on climate change, Newsom also announced funding for emergency response and earthquakes.
Under the proposal, $62 million will be spent on emergency response, $17 million on earthquake early warning systems and increasing sensor density, and $12 million on a new Southern California Emergency Response Center.
Newsom said he is also hoping to expand the use and production of zero-emission vehicles in the state, dedicating $6.1 billion on the issue from the budget proposal.
Of the $6.1 billion set aside for zero-emission vehicles, $3.9 billion will go towards converting trucks, busses and heavy-duty vehicles into electric vehicles along with $1.2 billion going towards passenger electric cars.
“This is dramatic, this is profound," Newsom said. "For California, you can’t get serious about climate change unless you’re serious about tailpipe emissions and all the related emissions from extraction, to power our transportation sector."
To combat the state's growing homelessness crisis, Newsom's budget is slated to include $2 billion in new spending. Newsom said the new funding to combat homelessness will focus on implementing the vision laid out in last year's budget.
"We are leaning in heavily on what is happening at encampments," Newsom said.
The proposal includes $500 million to go towards cleaning up encampments.
Cost of living
In the area of cost of living, Newsom outlined several budgeting ideas in housing, COVID relief, transportation and education.
Under the proposed budget, healthcare opportunities will expand in California, through Medi-Cal, which would make it the first state in the country to provide health coverage to undocumented immigrants by January 2024.
Newsom's hopes to expand health coverage to undocumented immigrants have been widely criticized among Republican lawmakers.
"Universal health care means blank check health care for anybody and I just don't think we can afford that, that's a budget buster," Senator Nielsen said.
Newsom also said he hopes for the state to begin contracting and manufacturing insulin through CalRX.
Newsom's budget calls for an expansion of mental health services including $1.5 billion in spending on mental health resources for school children, $1.4 billion in new Medi-Cal benefits for community-based mobile crisis intervention services and $571 to support state hospitals.
The budget for the cost of living will also include spending $3 billion to pay down California's unemployment insurance debt.
In the transportation sector, Newsom's budget calls for $4.2 billion in new funding for high-speed rail in the central valley and $4.9 billion to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects.
The state's ports will also get more funding for supply chain investments and infrastructure under Newsom's proposal, to the tune of $2.3 billion.
One of Newsom's proposals, supported by lawmakers on both sides, will put a "holiday" on the state's gas tax preventing a scheduled increase.
Keeping streets safe
Speaking in light of recent smash and grab robberies plaguing California cities, Newsom said he hopes to prevent such crimes by creating a new smash and grab enforcement unit.
Funding for the new enforcement unit will come from $356 million in investments over 3 years which would also fund local law enforcement agencies.
"These are terrible crimes and as someone who has been on the receiving side, I can attest to it," Newsom said. "We have to hold people accountable for breaking the law in organized ways."
Republican lawmakers in the state criticize Newsom's response to crimes, which they call easy on criminals.
"The governor seems to finally get that there's a public safety problem in California," Senator Nielsen said. "Up to last year, it was all bash the law enforcement, defund law enforcement and do reform of our sentencing laws well folks, that has not worked."
During the budget proposal, Newsom also addressed the state's budget surplus. Newsom says, of the $45.7 million surplus, $16.1 billion is set aside for Proposition 98, $3.9 billion is set aside for Proposition 2, and $5.1 billion will go to the state's reserves. After allocations are made, a remaining $20.6 billion surplus will remain.
Republicans have asked Newsom to spend more money on water storage during the drought.
“We have enjoyed some extra revenues the last couple of years and it's best that those monies be spent on more one-time expenditures," said Senator Nielsen. "And in this particular budget, the governor seems to be doing that.”