Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to remove himself from a political dilemma when it comes to slavery reparations proposed by his own task force.
Fox News Digital first reported Tuesday night that Newsom, after months of complete silence on the issue, refused to endorse the cash payments — which could have been as high as $1.2 million for a recipient – recommended by his reparations task force, which argues that dealing with the legacy of slavery “is about more than paying cash.”
“It would take absurd mental gymnastics to ask California taxpayers, including new immigrants, low-income workers, and even some African Americans to pay for a wrong done by other states over 150 years ago. ago, but that’s the position Newsom has put himself in,” Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher told Fox News Digital.
“No matter what he does, he will be angry with his base,” he said. “This is just another example of the Governor’s tendency to make big promises that he can’t or won’t keep, and people will quickly learn that Newsom is all talk but no action.”
Newsom’s dilemma – choosing between endorsing budget-busting checks or angering a core Democratic constituency – is in large part a problem of his own making.
After the George Floyd riots in 2020, Newsom signed legislation that made California the first in the nation to begin a massive socioeconomic experiment of creating a group appointed by the governor’s majority to explore potential reparations of slavery for Black Americans.
The proposal set forth by the California Reparations Task Force on Saturday, estimated to cost more than double California’s total budget, risks bankrupting the state, but those likely to support it form a large bloc of the Democratic Party — a 2021 University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB poll found that 64% of Democrats and 86% of Black Americans support reparations.
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While the Democratic governor applauded the task force’s work in a statement Tuesday, he declined to endorse any specific recommendations, though he pledged to continue to “advance systemic changes that ensure an inclusive and equitable future for all Californians.”
“Many of the recommendations put forth by the Task Force are critical action items that we have already worked to address: breaking down barriers to voting, strengthening resources to address hate, strengthening law enforcement and justice reforms to building trust and safety, boosting economic mobility — all while investing billions to eliminate disparities and improve equity in housing, education, health care, and more. This work must continue,” he says.
“Following the Task Force’s submission of its final report this summer, I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to advance systemic changes that ensure an inclusive and equitable future for all Californians.”
In a repeat of a statement billed as clarification by Newsom’s office and several media outlets, Newsom again stopped short of endorsing cash payments, saying he was awaiting the task force’s final report.
The task force recommended giving just under $360,000 per person to the roughly 1.8 million Black Californians who had an ancestor who was enslaved in the U.S. Other factors would stack additional reparations payments on top of checks specific to slavery. In total, a Black Californian who is 71 years old and has lived in California his entire life can receive up to $1.2 million, according to an analysis from the New York Times.
The total cost of the program is estimated at about $640 billion, which more than doubles the nearly $300 billion state budget, at a time when the state is facing its first deficit in years.
Newsom refused to weigh in for months where he stood on reparations, even though the proposal has been in the works for more than two years. His hand may be forced soon, however. The task force’s final recommendations will soon be submitted to the California Legislature, which will decide whether to implement the measures and send them to Newsom’s desk to be signed into law.
Critics argue that Newsom will use the lofty proposal to score political points because he views it as a nonstarter in the state legislature. Up to that point, CalMatters asked recently all 80 assemblymembers if they supported the proposal of the task force, and only three said yes, while the others refused to respond.
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But if the legislature does not pass a bill, advocates have called on Newsom to use his authority as governor to unilaterally enact the measure. He probably sees this as a no-win situation, hence the vagueness of his comments so far.
“This futile exercise in reparations exposes the frivolous nature of Governor Newsom’s leadership,” Republican Assemblyman Bill Essayli told Fox News Digital. “Instead of dealing with California’s problems, he prefers headlines and doing nothing in commission. It might work in a Democrat super-majority state like California, but the rest of America will see right through him .”
“The creation of this committee is another half-baked ploy for votes and awards that has landed him in dangerous waters with no path to safety,” said Elizabeth Kolstad, Chairwoman of the Fresno County Republican Party. “Clearly, if Gavin’s committee’s recommendations had been implemented, CA would have sunk financially faster than the Titanic; only the Titanic’s lights were on when it went down.”
The debate comes as Newsom continues to be floated as a possible 2024 Democrat alternative to President Biden, whose job approval ratings have sunk to a race low. Newsom has publicly endorsed Biden for re-election, but his actions have raised questions about how committed he is to the president.
The governor fueled speculation in March when he launched a political nonprofit called the Campaign for Democracy that took him on a tour of many red states like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.
For the first time in years, California is facing a $22.5-billion projected budget deficit after boasting about a steady surplus less than a year ago. Newsom angered Republicans and Democrats alike after he proposed cutting his budget commitment for foster care services by two-thirds to help fill the budget shortfall.
The state suddenly lost money despite being No. 1 in the nation for highest income taxes, sales taxes and having the second highest fuel tax in the nation, second only to Pennsylvania.
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California is No. Also 9 in the nation for jobless claims, tied with Michigan with a 4.3% unemployment rate, compared to Florida’s 2.6%.
California’s homelessness crisis has also gotten worse since the pandemic, despite Newsom spending billions to fight it since taking office. The state holds more than 30% of the nation’s homeless population, and that number has increased by about 6% since 2020, compared to just 0.4% in the rest of the country, according to Public Policy Institute of California.