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For months, Gavin Newsom has implored us again and again (and again) to “meet this moment.” With the $202 billion budget the Legislature passed today, we missed the moment entirely.
Having shut down the economy for months, the Governor said he’d do “everything we can do keep small businesses afloat.” Yet this budget does the opposite: Regulations are ratcheted up, not relieved. Taxes are raised, not cut. Liability is expanded, not limited. AB 5 is reinforced, not repealed.
Even worse, the budget relies on tricks, gimmicks, and the hope of federal aid to avoid reforming bad habits and making serious spending cuts. Facing a $54 billion deficit, meeting the moment would have meant asking what good the $100 billion added to the budget over the last decade has actually done. The answer is not much:
Despite $64 billion in additional Medi-Cal spending, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research did “not detect significant improvements in patient health.”
After a $39 billion increase in education spending, the National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that California’s 8th Grade math and reading scores continue to decline.
With $7 billion more spending on social services, the Census Bureau reports California continues to have the highest level of poverty in the nation. In just the last two years, we’ve spent $2.7 billion more on homelessness only to see this worst-in-the nation tragedy get much worse.
The Governor and Legislature talk constantly about spending money. They never talk about spending it wisely, or in a way that serves ordinary Californians rather than powerful special interests.
One final thing: Much remains to be negotiated in the budget (behind closed doors), and the only reason there was a vote today was so that legislators can keep getting paid. That this is the number one priority tells you everything you need to know about our State Capitol.
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