CA state legislators approve 2021-22 budget proposal

Infographic depicting general framework outlined by June 28 CA budget package
Amber Chia/Staff

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Following considerable deliberation, California state legislators approved a $262.6 billion budget proposal Monday, compromising with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on key topics such as economic stimulus, homelessness and higher education.

The proposal was delayed by disagreements over the state’s long-term spending, according to an article from the Associated Press. The legislature reached the agreement days before the start of the new fiscal year and almost two weeks after passing a placeholder budget to meet the June 15 deadline.

With $76 billion in surplus, legislators aimed to allocate more money toward ongoing spending, but Newsom expressed concerns about the trajectory of the state’s finances, preferring to return $8.1 billion to taxpayers in tax rebates, the article added.

Under the new budget, $8.1 billion will be delivered in payments of up to $1,100 to families that earn at most $75,000. However, while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic remains a primary focus, this year’s budget also includes funding to address community issues.

“Through the end of this pandemic and beyond, (the budget) advances the Governor’s sustained focus on increasing opportunity through education, including early education; increasing the affordability of health care and housing, and effective governance,” reads a press release from Newsom’s office.

Many provisions are made toward higher education in the agreement, including efforts to curb nonresident admission to UC and CSU schools to increase in-state admittance. According to Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn, 900 out-of-state admissions will be replaced by California students at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego every year from the 2022-23 academic year through 2025.

In a joint statement released Wednesday, UC Board of Regents chair John Pérez and UC President Michael Drake applauded the restoration of prior cuts to funding for the UC system. 

Increased state support will boost infrastructure and capital projects across UC campuses, providing the University $325 million to increase energy efficiency and upgrade buildings, classrooms and labs, which benefits students as well as local economies,” the joint statement reads.

In addition, the two lauded the budget for its funding of student mental health services and affordable housing programs.

The budget also addresses outstanding student debt as legislators seek to expand Cal Grant enrollment.

“This year’s budget includes $155 million to increase eligibility for Cal Grants — particularly for older and returning students — funds that can go a long way to help students with the rising cost of housing,” Hahn said in an email.

According to the latest state Assembly floor report of the 2021-22 budget, the “age and time out of high school” requirements for community college students will be eliminated. Furthermore, $632 million will be allocated toward rebooting the Middle Class Scholarship to provide “debt free college” for lower- and middle-income students.

The agreement also increases job protection for child care and transitional kindergarten providers. Additionally, Newsom agreed with legislators to expand the availability of health care to undocumented residents aged 50 years and above. 

The budget includes critical investments in addressing homelessness, cited by the floor report as the “largest ever commitment” yet made. Hahn added that roughly $12 billion go toward existing programs, including the CalWORKs Housing Support Program, the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program and Project Roomkey.

Of the $12 billion in funding, $1 billion is directed toward helping local governments, such as Berkeley, address homelessness, Hahn noted.

“It’s a privilege to have a hand in crafting such a historic and transformational state budget that will have lasting impact on Californians for decades,” said state Assemblymember Phil Ting, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, in a statement. “We are meeting the challenges of today … while also investing in tomorrow.”

Contact Kavya Gupta at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.