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Gov. Gavin Newsom presents the 2020-21 state budget at a press conference at the California Capitol on January 10, 2020. 

 Gov. Gavin Newsom revised California’s budget down to $203 billion Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic batters the state with record job losses and shortfalls. In charting out a plan to fill a huge deficit, the Democratic governor strategically tied much of the cuts to public health, public safety and public schools to additional federal stimulus aid.

“These unemployment numbers, the economic consequences of COVID-19, are not only being felt statistically, but they haven’t been felt like this since the Great Depression,” Newsom said. “These are not normal numbers.”

In trying to bridge a $54 billion deficit, he said, Congress could wield great power to stave off painful cuts to schools, health care and safety-net programs at a time when people need those services most. The Democratic governor also aimed his gaze at the Trump administration— announced a list of so-called trigger cuts that would happen absent additional federal support. 

Among notable trigger cuts:

California’s K-12 and community college budgets will drop $19 billion under the state’s minimum-funding guarantee, setting back years of striving to reach adequate funding. The governor announced a 10% cut to the state’s school funding formula, which has aimed to channel extra dollars to districts with more disadvantaged students. The reduction includes a loss of a 2.31% cost-of-living increase districts rely on for purchasing goods and services.

Optional Medi-Cal benefits such as community-based adult services and full dental care would go.

Newsom said he won’t roll back tax credits for working families and will maintain cash payments for working parents participating in CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program. However, there will be cuts to CalWORKS employment support and child care.

A 7% cut in the number of hours seniors and disabled people receive through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program.

A 10% cut to both the University of California and California State University systems.

The state would negotiate a 10% salary reduction with state worker unions for a $1.2 billion general fund savings.

A $30 million cut to state parks starting 2021-22.

Cap parole at two years for most offenders, excluding sex offenders and prisoners serving life sentences.

In addition, the Newsom administration walked back many of its more expansive January proposals. For example, the governor is declining a plan to extend Medi-Cal health coverage to eligible undocumented seniors over 65 — and he will likely face resistance from some legislative Democrats hoping to support a community more vulnerable to the virus. 

Now that Newsom has put out his plan, lawmakers have until June 15 to pass a balanced budget.

The crisis, however, appears to present opportunities for Newsom. He had proposed closing one prison in the next five years. 

Now he wants to close two prisons, one in 2021 and another in 2022.


CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

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