California Pushing Reparations Forward as State Flounders Under $45 Billion Deficit 

AndriiKoval /
AndriiKoval /

California doesn’t need climate change to sink. Governor Gavin Newsom is doing fine on his own. And, when faced with a massive deficit, it’s only natural that California seeks to plunge even deeper into debt by passing a series of reparations. 

On Friday, Newsom announced a $26.7 billion deficit, but the figure is closer to $45 billion. Newsom did not include around $17.3 billion in actions he and lawmakers had already agreed to. 

Newsom announced a series of cost-saving measures, each more dismal than the one before it. His administration will rescind the $6.7 billion previously allocated for increased payments to doctors treating poor patients and immigrants. Nearly 8% of operating costs will be cut from most state agencies by removing landlines and assessing printing needs. He also proposed cutting $2 billion from broadband initiatives and closing housing units with 4,600 beds across 13 state prisons to save $81 million. 

Additionally, funding for homelessness and housing initiatives will be reduced by nearly $1.2 billion, including $474 million from an anti-foreclosure program. Though specifics were not provided, water storage funding will be reduced by $500 million.  

An in-home service care program for 14,000 low-income, undocumented immigrants with disabilities will be shut down to save $94.7 million. Education programs will face a $2 billion cut, impacting preschool and kindergarten facility upgrades and scholarships for middle-class college students.  

Finally, $352.5 million in state and local public health funding and $189.4 million from the mental health services fund will be eliminated. 

Newsom has long stated that he would not raise taxes in his state, but his budget tells a different story.

Newsom’s budget includes several indirect tax increases on businesses, primarily by reducing taxable income offsets, which could generate up to $18 billion over the next few years. As historically proven, these tax increases on corporations will be passed on to Californians. 

As the state flounders on the edge of financial ruin, it’s the perfect time for the California Reparations Task Force to step forward and claim its piece of the pie. 

Senator Steve Bradford announced on May 21 that three pieces of legislation concerning reparations have successfully passed through the California State Senate. Bradford emphasized the significance of these bills in establishing the framework for reparations following a two-year study by the California Reparations Task Force on the impact of slavery and institutional discrimination on African Americans in California.  

SB 1403 lays the groundwork for establishing the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency, which would manage all forthcoming reparations efforts. SB 1331 aims to set up a specific account within the state treasury designated for funding reparations policies sanctioned by the Legislature and the Governor.  

Lastly, SB 1050 seeks to offer restitution to Californians who suffered losses such as losing their homes or having their land seized unfairly due to racially-driven instances of eminent domain. 

California is leading the nation with reparations proposals. In the U.S. Congress, a bill initially proposed in the 1980s to examine reparations for African Americans has hit a roadblock. While Illinois and New York have recently passed legislation to investigate reparations, California stands out as the first state to advance proposals for reparations for Black Americans. 

But apologies are free, and last week, the California State Assembly passed a bill that requires the state to formally apologize for its “legacy of discrimination” against Blacks in the state. In 2019, Newsom formally apologized for California’s treatment of Native Americans, although no attempt has been made to make reparations for the lands stolen from them.  

During the period of westward expansion in the United States, Native American tribes in California experienced displacement and violence. Settlers, the state government, and the federal government forced them to leave their traditional lands. This process included treaties that were often disregarded, military conflicts, and policies such as the forcible removal of Native American children to boarding schools. These actions led to the loss of land, resources, and cultural heritage for Native American communities in California. 

And, eventually, a formal apology with no attempts to restore tribal lands or financially compensate the suffering of Native Americans. 

The cost of SB 1403, the bill establishing the formation of the California Americans Freedman Affairs Agency, is estimated to be $1 million annually. In addition, critics worry that the cost of investigating claims by Black families will incur hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

In a state that is already drowning in debt, reparations will be an unnecessary burden. Only time will tell if Newsom approves the bills for votes and “political correctness” or vetoes them in a bid for fiscal responsibility.