Anyone who has paid any attention to California over the last decades knows that the state is “green” and the environmentalists are proud of it. Just ask them; they’ll let you know!
But there’s another aspect of the state being “green” beyond environmentalism, and that has to do with money. California is one of the highest-taxed states in the union, and it seems that Gov. Gavin Newsom is hard-pressed (so far) to find ways to spend all that moola that’s collected from residents.
Back in January, it was estimated that the state would have a surplus in tax collections beyond budget estimates. The figure then was that the surplus would be $76 billion. But, when the final figures came in in May, Newsom said the surplus is now $97.5 billion.
Note: That is $97.5 BILLION more than the expenditures in the state budget.
At a news conference about the budget, the governor said, “It’s simply without precedent. No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this.”
So what is going to happen to all that extra money? One might say that it should be returned to the taxpayers who coughed it up from their incomes, but the fact is, before that could happen, there are state requirements to be met that regulate how such surpluses are handled.
Word from Sacramento is that of the $97.5 billion, only $49 billion is considered discretionary. By law, the rest of the money – some $37-billion – must go to schools. Given the usual complaining from the education lobby that they “need” more money, this is a welcome surprise. How it would be spent remains to be seen. Whether it will get to the students in the classroom where it really is needed is a question most parents ask – and there’s no answer at this point.
I’m not holding my breath.
But then, what to do with the rest? It appears most legislators don’t want to return it to the taxpayers who paid it, in the belief “they don’t deserve it!” They want the money to go mostly to taxpayers who paid the least, since they do “deserve” it.
I know, I know! But remember, this is California.
We have heard that the governor spoke of sending $400 to every car owner in the state – which is nice, considering that gasoline is over $6 a gallon now – BUT, then he modified that by saying he will exclude drivers of “expensive” cars.
He didn’t provide a list of makes and models to qualify!
Remember again, this is California.
In addition to spending some of it on direct refunds and education, infrastructure is another category of state spending that will get attention. Then again, how much and for what – remains to be seen.
The overriding issue of homelessness statewide is one that will get attention, but as always, the big question is how to spend how much. Whether the money would go to individuals or to projects that would provide housing or rental assistance are questions that need to be answered.
This is an area the governor has addressed with a plan to provide what he calls the CARE Court – his Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment Court Program. He sees it as a means to get people with substance abuse and psychotic disorders the help they need.
The law, as it is now, is that a court cannot force people to get help in any kind of assistance program. Newsom hopes to alter that requirement so help would be available. It remains to be seen if this would work politically. One issue is the money needed to fund it, and the other concern is whether there are enough qualified workers to run the programs across the state.
The proposal is extensive – to connect with the thousands of people who are homeless and have mental disorders. They would get treatment and shelter along with medication and mental health services for up to two years with plan for each participant’s future to include a public defender and a personal advocate.
If it comes to pass and it works, it might be considered a miracle. Then again, it could be the beginning of what could turn out to be a major boondoggle and waste of taxpayer money.
Given that thousands of Californians are moving out of the state now because it is so expensive to live and do business here – Newsom’s plan might just kick start a further, major outward movement – and there goes the tax money Newsom is depending on.
Time will tell – it is California, after all.
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