California lawmakers OK budget; most taxpayers to get refund

Jun 29, 2022, 11:23 AM | Updated: 10:51 pm
Members of the California state Assembly meet at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, June 20...

Members of the California state Assembly meet at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, June 20, 2022. California lawmakers will vote on a nearly $308 billion state budget, Wednesday, June 29. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Wednesday approved a nearly $308 billion spending plan that includes money to cover abortions for women who can’t afford them and the health care costs for low-income adults living in the country illegally while sending cash payments to most taxpayers to help offset record-high gas prices.

The operating budget now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, who could sign it by the end of the week before lawmakers leave town for their summer recess.

The budget continues a remarkable turnaround for the nation’s most populous state, which just two years ago raised taxes and slashed spending to cover what they feared would be a staggering $54.3 billion budget deficit caused by the pandemic.

Instead, California’s revenues soared on the back of a roaring stock market that boosted the wealth of the state’s disproportionate share of millionaires and billionaires who pay higher tax rates than other states. The top 1% of California earners account for roughly half of all the state’s income tax collections.

The result: A $97 billion budget surplus, the largest in state history.

“Thanks to California voters who gave California a progressive tax system that ensures the wealthiest among us pay their faire share, this historic budget truly puts California’s wealth to work for all,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley and chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

Republicans bemoaned the size of the state budget and slammed Democrats and the governor for not suspending the state’s tax on gasoline — which will increase to 53.9 cents per gallon on Friday to accompany the state’s average gas price of $6.30 per gallon, the highest in the nation.

Republicans attempted to amend the budget on Wednesday to suspend that gas tax, but Democrats rejected it.

“You’re basically telling California motorists to take a hike. You’re telling everyone struggling to put food on the table and gas in their car that this Legislature just doesn’t care,” said Republican state Sen. Brian Jones.

Instead of suspending the gas tax, Democrats who control California’s government chose to send cash to taxpayers. Households that earn less than $500,000 per year and single people who earn less than $250,000 per year will get between $200 and $1,050, depending on how much money they make.

“We did tax refunds because we value dollars in your bank account versus pennies at the pump,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting, a Democrat and chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

The budget reflects a wish-list of Democratic priorities on health care, education, transportation and climate change.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and some conservative states are outlawing or severely restricting access to abortion, California’s budget includes more than $200 million to support clinics and train providers in the state — including $40 million to cover procedures for women who can’t afford to pay for them.

The budget authorizes the state to pay for the health care of all low-income adults regardless of their immigration status, clearing the way for about 714,000 people who are living in the country illegally to be eligible for Medicaid that will cost taxpayers about $2.6 billion per year when fully implemented.

Meanwhile, workers in hospitals and nursing homes will be eligible for bonuses of up to $1,500, part of the state’s strategy to help health care providers retain a labor force that has shrunk because of the stress of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

For California’s troubled high-speed rail project, lawmakers agreed to finally release $4.2 billion in bond funds with a priority to build a section of track between the Central Valley cities of Merced and Bakersfield. In exchange, they created the Office of Inspector General, a new independent agency with power to audit the project.

The budget includes record-high spending for public schools, including $2.8 billion to compensate school districts for declining enrollments once schools reopened after shutting down at the start of the pandemic.

Despite the state’s record surplus, the budget does include at least one new tax. Lawmakers agreed to tax the extraction of lithium, a critical component for the rechargeable batteries that power electric cars. Demand for lithium is increasing as electric cars become more popular, and 20% of the tax will go to help restore the Salton Sea, a lake in Southern California ideal for lithium extraction.

Lawmakers also passed several gun-related bills they are hurrying to Newsom before they adjourn for a summer break. That included a bill to let private citizens to sue people who sell illegal firearms.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Montana District Judge Michael Moses speaks to attorneys during a court hearing on Sept 15, ...
Associated Press

Montana judge knocks down Republicans’ tighter voting laws

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge struck down as unconstitutional three laws that restricted voting in the state, saying there was no evidence of the widespread voter fraud that the 2021 Republican-sponsored laws ostensibly were targeting. The laws ended same-day voter registration, imposed new identification requirements on students and restricted third-party ballot collections. The […]
11 hours ago
Former President Donald Trump tosses caps to the crowd as he steps onstage during a rally at the Ma...
Associated Press

Trump rallies drift to fringe ahead of potential 2024 bid

WARREN, Mich. (AP) — Paige Cole is one of the “Anons.” The mother of three from Eastpointe, Michigan, says Joe Biden is a sham president and believes Donald Trump will soon be reinstated to the White House to finish the remainder of Biden’s term. “His whole inauguration was fake. He didn’t have real military people. […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Acclaimed Native American flute player, hoop dancer has died

Kevin Locke, an acclaimed Native American flute player, hoop dancer, cultural ambassador and educator, has died in South Dakota at age 68, according to his family. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and from the ancestral line of Lakota and Anishinabe, Locke died Friday night after returning to his hotel room in Hill […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Ringo Starr plays as part of a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in Beth...
Associated Press

Ringo Starr cancels Canadian shows after catching COVID-19

LONDON (AP) — Ringo Starr has cancelled shows in North America after the former Beatles drummer tested positive for COVID-19. The 82-year-old cancelled performances Sunday at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, and Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota, citing illness. On Monday a spokesperson confirmed that Starr and his All-Starr band […]
11 hours ago
FILE - A sign stands on UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s campus in Minnetonka, Minn., on Oct. 16, 2012. Un...
Associated Press

UnitedHealth closes roughly $8B deal for Change Healthcare

MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) — UnitedHealth Group said Monday that it completed its acquisition of Change Healthcare, closing the roughly $8 billion deal a couple weeks after a judge rejected a challenge from federal regulators. UnitedHealth is merging the technology company with its Optum segment. The health care giant said that combination will simplify clinical, administrative […]
11 hours ago
FILE - WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted from a courtroom af...
Associated Press

Russian court sets Brittney Griner appeal date for Oct. 25

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Monday set Oct. 25 as the date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession. Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police said they found vape […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
California lawmakers OK budget; most taxpayers to get refund