SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — California state senators unveiled their financial priorities to help build the state’s post-pandemic economy on Wednesday, including expanding access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants and attempts to cancel student debt, among many other big-ticket efforts.
“We have a once in a generation opportunity to make transformative changes for California,” State Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said.
With higher than forecasted revenues and $26 billion in federal stimulus money, some state Democrats have big financial hopes in their budget priorities.
Among the proposals is a $100 million effort to immediately expand state health insurance to all Californians 65 and up regardless of immigration status, and eventually extend it to all Californians regardless of status with a phased-in approach.
The priority list also includes funding to expand access to early childhood care and education, money for first-time home buyers and a five-year, $20 billion plan to tackle homelessness with more permanent housing programs.
“Our goal is a more equitable economy that provides pathways out of poverty and expanded access to wealth, so we can restore our middle class. And we also want to dramatically reduce homelessness,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland.
The lawmakers also want to minimize student debt by expanding middle-class access to scholarships and are urging the Biden administration to cancel student debt up to $50,000 per student.
“This will eliminate debt for three million Californians and significantly reduce debt for almost one million more,” State Senator John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, said.
On top of this, Democrats said they want to make a significant investment in improving state systems for agencies like the Employment Development Department and DMV that have been plagued by persistent technology problems.
The senators did not provide a total price tag on the long list of priorities. Republicans were still reviewing the plan on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of different needs, a lot of issues we need to address. What I am not for is spending money indiscriminately to make a legislator to feel good about themselves,” State Senator Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said. “It has to have an effect, has to have some real meaning to the average Californian. That’s what I want to see. Press conferences are great, but taxpayers, we want to see action.”
Details of the plan are still being worked out as lawmakers await California’s updated economic forecast in May, when the governor is expected to lay out his own updated priority plan.