California Senate Republicans on Wednesday responded to Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to announce a revised budget proposal on Friday with a list of budget priorities for the state’s spending next year, including on how to spend the estimated $68 billion in surplus funds.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gov. Newsom had announced that he would be releasing his revised 2022-2023 state budget proposal on Friday. While the specifics are not known, he has hinted recently he would spend more on drought relief, homelessness, low-income housing, public safety, wildfires, and other pressing issues in California. In a short press release, the Governor’s office said that the budget would vaguely build on the “state’s ongoing work to confront California’s greatest existential threats, bolster our economic growth, and make historic investments in California’s future.”
Republican Senate leadership responded to the announcement later on Wednesday. In a letter to Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) and other Senate Republicans gave a budget request outlining ways to help Californians in not only the areas that Newsom had previously hinted at, but also through ways such as lowering the cost of gasoline, mental health and substance abuse assistance, lowering costs for renters, and lowering education costs for students.
Specifically, the GOP Senators listed as budget priorities:
– FULL Gas Tax Holiday – The state should immediately suspend the gas tax to reduce the cost of fuel for families suffering from record-high prices. The revenues should be backfilled by the General Fund so that transportation projects will not be impacted.
– Lower Costs for Renters – To help offset rising rental costs, California should increase the renter’s tax credit to $1,000 for spouses filing joint returns, heads of households, and surviving spouses. It should also include a $500 tax credit for other individuals to provide temporary assistance for one of California’s most significant problems.
– Reduce Government-Imposed Debt for Job Creators – The state still faces an $18 billion unemployment debt following the pandemic-related shutdowns. Job creators did not volunteer for this debt, but they will bear the costs of repaying it beginning in 2023 Those costs will make it more difficult to create new jobs in California, which still ranks among the nation’s highest unemployment rates. While we appreciate that the Governor’s January budget proposal recognizes this problem by including $3 billion to pay down this debt, and some legislative Democrats have called for $7.25 billion, we urge that more should be included from the surplus to pay down that debt and clear the path for a more sustainable job recovery.
– California Student Tax Credit – To assist students with the rising costs of housing, transportation, or other school expenses, California should offer up to several thousand dollars in student tax credits per year for eligible students.
– Address Mental Health and Substance Abuse Needs – The state should invest $10 billion to build the facilities needed to address the related crises of mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.
– Invest in Water Storage – The state must invest the $2.6 billion necessary to fully fund the already voter-approved Sites Reservoir that will provide water storage for 1.5 million homes per year.
– Prepare for Wildfires – The state needs to remove the red tape and roadblocks stalling wildfire prevention and treatment projects.
GOP Budgetary Proposals
“California is going to hell in a hand basket under a one-party rule,” said Senator Wilk on Wednesday. “The budget should be laser-focused on addressing affordability, rising homelessness, public safety, and an environmental crisis with regard to drought and wildfire that threatens entire communities. These are the issues that keep ordinary Californians up at night.”
Some in the State Capitol noted that while Democrats would likely not heed to everything the GOP has requested, anything they ignore will make them accountable later on if major issues come up around the lack of funding in a certain area.
“We see this every year. The Democrats put out a budget and the Republicans try and get them to increase spending on things they want. Every year,” explained “Dana”, a worker at the state Capitol Building to the Globe on Wednesday. “This being an election year though, and California having a large surplus and also suffering from many problems like a rise in crime, housing unaffordability and drought and wildfire issues, you might see the GOP and Democrats agree more on spending more than usual. But we’ll see what Newsom comes up with Friday.”
As of Wednesday evening, legislative Democrats have yet to respond to the GOP’s requests.