Additional stimulus checks could soon be on the way for many Californians following the state legislature’s approval of a 2021-2022 spending plan.
The record-breaking $262.6 billion budget includes a massive surplus of about $80 billion and while some key aspects of the plan have yet to be negotiated by lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom, they’ve reached a deal on most of the important issues — including $8 billion in stimulus checks for middle-class Californians and expanded funding for homeless aid.
Additionally, the state’s surplus allowed for an increase in spending on California’s social safety net programs and financial support for education, which both seemed impossible only a year ago as the pandemic raged.
As part of the Golden State Stimulus expansion, the partial budget deal includes $600 stimulus checks for Californians making less than $75,000, building on similar payments earlier this year which were sent to those making less than $30,000. The deal also provides $1.5 billion in grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic and expands health coverage for more undocumented immigrants, though details on other issues like childcare have yet to be worked out.
The budget also contains billions of dollars to combat wildfire and drought threats, including $1 billion over several years for wildfire prevention, $3 billion to fight the drought and $3.7 billion over the next few years to address climate change, though Newsom and legislators are still figuring out exactly how to spend the funds. Also noticeably absent from the budget framework is funding for the state’s high-speed rail project, a result of disagreements surrounding how much of the train the government should be funding.
The deal passed with overwhelming support from state Democrats and little from Republicans and also included $250 million to get the Newsom recall campaign on the ballot as soon as September. Assemblyman Heath Flora, who represents Turlock, voted no on the budget deal and had submitted an amendment to the bill which would replenish the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
The state’s $7.8 billion Rainy Day Fund was withdrawn in 2020 to plug a deficit which never materialized.
“It made sense to dip into our savings when we thought the pandemic budget deficit would be over $50 billion. Unlike the Feds, the state can’t carry a budget deficit. We have to balance the budget,” Flora said. He and other Republicans submitted several amendments to the budget bill, none of which were approved.
“We drained nearly $8 billion in savings and then ended up with an $80 billion surplus,” continued Flora. “It would take less than 10% of the surplus to replenish our savings. Seems pretty fair to me.”