SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — Universal health care, a gas tax holiday and climate change: Those are only a few of the financial priorities Gov. Gavin Newsom presented in his proposed state budget on Monday.
For the second year in a row, Newsom presented his financial priorities amid a pandemic, with health care at the top of his list in the $286.4 billion spending plan.
The governor proposed to extend the state’s health care coverage — Medi-Cal — to allow all low-income Californians regardless of immigration status. It would be the first of its kind in the nation.
Newsom wants to earmark $614 million in this year’s budget for the program. It would cost more than $2 billion every year, with the program starting in January 2024.
“We said we’re going to do it, said it would take a few years,” Newsom said. “We’re committed to doing it.”
Newsom’s administration projects the state will have a $45.7 billion surplus.
Flush in cash and grappling with rising inflation, the governor is proposing a gas tax holiday to hit the brakes on a gas tax increase that is set to trigger in July. The pause would decrease the state’s fuel revenue this year by $523 million.
On transportation, Newsom wants to spend $4.2 billion to complete the first phase of the high-speed rail, which would run through the Central Valley.
Other financial proposals include $2 billion on homelessness, mental health and housing. Another $750 million would go to address the ongoing drought, and to prevent wildfires, $1.2 billion could go to forest management.
The proposed budget also includes money to combat crime and $2.7 billion on COVID-19 response.
Newsom said he is working with the State Legislature on renewing paid COVID-19 sick time for California workers, but he couldn’t give any details on Monday, including how soon it could go into effect.
“I’ll tell you this is a top priority for me,” Newsom said.
The Republican vice chairman of the Assembly and Senate Budget committees responded to the proposals. Sen. Jim Nielsen said much more needs to be done on water storage and fire prevention.
He said that with a budget surplus “there’s no reason to not provide enough money to fund these critical priorities.”
“Overtaxed Californians should keep more of their hard-earned money. Precious tax dollars need to be spent wisely and effectively to serve those in need,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong in a statement.
With such a big budget surplus, Newsom could not say whether taxpayers will see another Golden State stimulus check. He said there will likely be some contribution back to taxpayers but in what form is yet to be determined.
The state budget will be finalized in June.