On Jan. 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $286.4 billion 2022 California budget proposal, which he plans to spend on what he claims are the “greatest existential threats” facing California — climate change, homelessness, and COVID-19. He also expressed support for expanding healthcare for undocumented immigrants, which many liberals in his base have long advocated for.
“This proposal will be considered in light of the challenges today, and we will back in light of the challenges that present themselves tomorrow,” Newsom said.
The governor has begun negotiations with the Legislature, which must pass a budget by June 15. The final proposal could look very different from Newsom’s proposal once it goes through the negotiations, but State Senate Majority Toni Atkins has indicated support for the governor’s plan to help those in need.
To combat retail theft, Newsom proposed more than $300 million to put police outside businesses and to investigate and prosecute organized crime rings. After a series of flash-mob-style shoplifting incidents in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Newsom believes that this is called for to help prevent future crime.
In the case of COVID-19, Newsom wants to dedicate funding to help overloaded hospitals hire additional staff and to expand testing and vaccination. Newsom called for bringing back supplemental paid sick leave for workers who test positive.
In an interview with The UCSD Guardian, Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Kate Merritt applauded the budget’s focus on COVID-19.
“I think it’s really important that Gavin Newsom is focusing and allocating this budget toward COVID-19 efforts,” Merritt said. “Putting this money into the health of Californians will be an investment both into our health and into our economy as it is so important that people feel safe at work.”
Furthermore, Newsom is focusing on increasing access to Medi-Cal to all California residents. Califorrnia has currently opened Medi-Cal to undocumented residents from ages 26–50. Expanding this program universally would cover 700,000 more people and cost $2.2 billion per year.
One vital issue is the natural disasters as a result of increased carbon emissions and climate change.
Newsom plans to spend $1.2 billion over two years for programs to increase forest thinning and build fuel breaks. Newsom also wants to give CalFire another $248 million for new crews and equipment after the wildfires destroyed more than 10 million acres of land in California in 2020.
The state has already agreed to spend $5.2 billion over three years to deal with the drought. Since some reservoirs dropped to their lowest levels during fall 2021, Newsom is looking to add $750 million more for grants for farmers and water conservation programs.
Furthermore, the governor has been planning to transition California to zero-emission vehicles. In 2020, Newsom signed an executive order to terminate gas-powered cars by 2035. The 2022 budget proposal included $6.1 billion to fast-track the transition to cleaner vehicles.
The homelessness crisis has become increasingly prominent after the pandemic forced many people to lose their homes. The budget includes $2 billion to distribute grants to local governments to convert vacant hotels and other buildings into supportive housing for homeless people. Over the next two years, Newsom plans to provide interim housing as more permanent units are being transformed.
The budget also includes $119 billion for K-12 schools after the crisis due to lower enrollment and attendance. To avoid this problem, the governor is giving districts more leeway when reporting their average daily attendance, which is how the state determines their funding. Schools can now use either the current year’s attendance or an average of three most recent years.
The budget also includes $54 million to help districts hire more teachers and waive examination and credential fees. After the spread of COVID-19, many California schools have noticed a shortage of staff. More than 12%of the teachers at San Francisco City Unified were absent in the first week of 2022. Long Beach Unified reported 11%of the teaching staff missing during the first week of 2022, which is triple the normal level after a holiday.
In order to fulfill Newsom’s new goal of guaranteeing 70% of adults receive some kind of college degree by 2030, he discussed a five-year plan to expand in-state enrollment at the University of California and California State University.
The state plans to dedicate money from the budget to add room for 7,100 students at UC and 9,400 more spots at CSU. Over the next four years, the UCs and CSUs would get a five percent annual funding increase if they meet the targets of expanding in-state enrollment by an extra 1% and closing student equity gaps across racial and economic groups. This means an extra 7,000 students from California at UC and 14,000 at CSU.
University of California President Michael V. Drake, released a statement on Jan. 10, offering support for Newsom’s proposed budget.
“This sustained public commitment will enable UC to make critical long-term investments, particularly in areas that directly support our students: further expanding California undergraduate enrollment, boosting resources to traditionally low-income and first-generation students, and increasing college access and affordability for hard-working students and families across the state,” Drake said.
The University of California Student Association, which represents over 285,000 students across the UC system, also expressed support for Governor Newsom’s 2022 budget as it underscores his administration’s commitment to higher education. The UC San Diego community may see higher admission rates in future years if Newsom’s budget plan passes.
The budget is expected to be passed by June 15. While the allocations may be altered during Newsom’s negotiations with Legislation, his team emphasizes his desire to provide structural support to those in need.
Art by Tony Anguiano for The UCSD Guardian