Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Budget Act of 2021 on Monday, representing a majority of the state’s $262.6 billion operating budget. Lawmakers foresee additional trailer bills getting signed this week before the legislature breaks for the summer.
The fiscal year began July 1, a would-be deadline for the budget. But lawmakers passed a placeholder budget mid-June, anticipating a long discussion process.
Part of Monday’s action includes a $100 billion economic recovery package known as the “California Comeback Plan.” And yes, that includes stimulus checks.
The stimulus extends $600 checks to taxpayers making between $30k-$75k a year. (A previous payment reached those earning below $30k.)
Families with children will receive an additional $500.
Community members should be excited for more than the stimulus checks, Assembly Member Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) told the News-Press.
The bill also establishes $8.1 billion in tax cuts to Californians with income of up to $75,000.
It also supports small businesses with $1.5 billion in grants (in addition to $2.5 billion from the Budget Act) and $2 billion in unemployment insurance tax payments (to be paid in 2023).
It expands a rent relief program, investing $5.2 billion to pay 100% of back rent and $2 billion for utility bills.
“Harnessing the largest surplus in state history, we’re making transformative investments across the board that will help bring all our communities roaring back from the pandemic — and pay dividends for generations to come,” Gov. Newsom said in a news release. “Through this comprehensive plan, the state is taking on the inequities laid bare by the pandemic, expanding our support for Californians facing the greatest hardships, increasing opportunity for every child, confronting homelessness head-on and doubling down on our work to build resilience against the climate change impacts that threaten California’s future.”
The Comeback Plan dedicates $12 billion over two years to address homelessness statewide. Almost half of that will be used to create 42,000 housing units through Homekey, a program rehabilitating hotel rooms and apartments into homeless housing.
The plan also allocates $3 billion to build low-income housing.
The governor also publicized an agreement with lawmakers Monday dedicating $6 billion to expand the state’s broadband fiber. The change would bring resources to areas where internet connectivity is limited.
Assembly Member Bennett expects the bill, SB-156, to be signed Thursday.
“The proposal will increase connectivity and affordability for all by making it easier for more internet providers to provide faster, cheaper service throughout the state and create opportunities for more entities to build last-mile infrastructure in more places, improving service, speeds, and network resilience,” he said.
He anticipates packages addressing wildfire, drought and climate change later this summer.
Despite what seems like a high price tag, the budget includes putting $25.2 billion into General Fund reserves. Of that, $15.9 billion will go in the Rainy Day Fund.
Assembly Member Bennett is proud of legislation community members should see at the local level, such as $3 million in funding for farmworker resource centers.
A total of $300 million will go to the state’s food banks. He learned from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara that staff are looking to replenish reserves that were depleted during the pandemic.
The state budget also includes $300,000 for the construction of pedestrian crosswalks in Goleta, $3 million to Santa Barbara County for the Foothills Forever project and just over $1 million for the cleanup of the abandoned Venoco pipeline off the coast of Carpinteria.