According to a new report by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber to the California Department of Finance and the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees, the cost of the 2021 California Gubernatorial recall fell well below projected estimates, coming it at just above $200 million.
Initial estimates last year began at between $300 million and $500 million. Due to the rollback of COVID-19 restrictions, the Department of Finance lowered the estimate down to “at least $215 million.” However, the figure kept jumping all around, with the Department of Finance changing their estimate to $276 million. The legislature acted upon that estimate and set aside $278 million for the election, with $35 million going to the Secretary of State’s office and $243 million split up between the 58 counties to run the election.
After the election in September 2021, in which Governor Gavin Newsom defeated the recall 62% to 38%, different estimates continued to come, including a $243 million figure from the Secretary of State in November.
The new release of the report on Thursday proved all previous estimates wrong, with Secretary of State Weber firmly setting the amount at $200,241,680 million. Final county costs came to $174,059,031 while the Secretary of State spent $26,182,649. With costs coming around 28% lower than what the Legislature had estimated, $69.5 million was left over. While some of the money could be used on as-of-yet unprocessed expenses, it is likely most will go back to California’s general fund.
In her letter, Secretary Weber said that, despite the costs coming in way below all previous estimates, it was still a large cost to the state, both financially and in terms of overall governance. She also noted that the price should bring recall reforms, something that is already being discussed in Sacramento.
“This was a substantial cost to taxpayers and a significant disruption to governing the state,” Secretary of State Shirley Weber said in a news release. “This price tag confirms that it is necessary to revisit the recall process and to pursue effective reforms.”
Recall experts noted on Friday that while $200 million was high, voter choice should not be taken for granted.
“It is easier than elsewhere to get a recall petition started up in California,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz to the Globe on Friday. “But a recall is there to remove those from office who do wrong. And in California, there is a lot of them, especially this year, but look at what they have done. It keeps all lawmakers on their toes to not be corrupt, both Democrat and Republican, and can really be used as a bellwether on where things are going. Just the other day there was a Shasta County Board of Supervisors recall, and later this month the San Francisco Board of Education recall of three of its members happens. Something is wrong, and if it takes some money to keep out corruption and public mistrust, well, it’s better than the alternative.”
“If this was a Republican state, you’d better believe we’d hear the GOP complaining about Democrats doing the exact same thing. It’s just that the party in power thought they had a lot more control than they actually do. And with the GOP geared to take back more House seats and state legislature seats, they aren’t giving an inch on anything, and that includes recalls.”
Minor tweaks to the overall cost are expected later this year as final expenses are tabulated.
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