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Golden State Could have $25 Billion Deficit in 2023-24 Fiscal Year

California taxes wealthy people more than other states, so most of the revenue decline is because the rich aren’t making as much money as they used to. The report details that California could see deficits between $8 billion to $17 billion in the following years.

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The surplus is gone once a budget is passed, according to the LAO, so the fiscal outlook provided to legislators assumes that current state laws and policies will remain in place.
The surplus is gone once a budget is passed, according to the LAO, so the fiscal outlook provided to legislators assumes that current state laws and policies will remain in place.

By McKenzie Jackson, California Black Media

California’s government may have a faceoff with a $25 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year as tax revenues decline, according to a report issued by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).

During a Nov.16 video press briefing, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek said that if the predicted downturn happens, it will be the Golden State’s weakest revenue performance since the 2008 to 2009 Great Recession.

“It is not insignificant, but it is also manageable,” Petek said. “We don’t think of this as a budget crisis. We just think of it as a notable budget problem that the Legislature will have to confront when it begins that process in January.”

The LAO, the state Legislature’s fiscal and policy advisor, details the budget shortfall and suggests ways to avoid it in the 20-page “The 2023-24 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook.”

The document is released yearly around this time to help guide California lawmakers as they begin to put together budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.

Petek said the threat of a national recession and actions by the Federal Reserve played a hand in the report’s outlook, but the predicted numbers are not based on a recession occurring.

“Economic conditions are really weighing on the revenue estimates that are a major influencer of our fiscal output,” Petek said. “With elevated inflation that causes the Fed to have to take action to cool down the economy in its effort to bring down inflation. The longer and the higher inflation remains, the more aggressive the Fed has to be. And the more aggressive the Fed has to be, it really increases the risk that the economy will fall into a recession. So, that being said, our revenue estimates do not assume a recession.”

California taxes wealthy people more than other states, so most of the revenue decline is because the rich aren’t making as much money as they used to. The report details that California could see deficits between $8 billion to $17 billion in the following years.

Less spending on large, one-time allocations is one way the state can offset the revenue losses it is expected to experience.

In response to the LAO budget prediction, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said the state has budget resiliency — $37.2 billion in reserves.

“We can and will protect the progress of the recent year’s budgets,” Rendon said. “In particular, the Assembly will protect California’s historic school funding gains, as districts must continue to invest in retaining and recruiting staff to help kids advance and recover from the pandemic.”

State Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said that in the past, the dreary budget forecast would have meant program cuts and middle-class tax increases.

“That does not have to be the case this year,” Atkins said. “Thanks to our responsible approach, we are confident that we can protect our progress and craft a state budget without ongoing cuts to schools and other core programs or taxing middle class families. The bottom line is simple: we are prepared to hold onto the gains we’ve made and continue where we left off once our economy and revenues rebound.”

Petek recommended that legislators not look to the reserves to solve the budget paucity when they begin formulating the state spending plan in early 2023.

“It would be prudent to try and identify other solutions in the early part of the budget period, and then if and when we have a lot more information about the economic situation — if revenues have deteriorated for example or if there were a recession, we are certainly not saying don’t use the reserves,” he said. “We are saying, keep them on hold and you have them to turn to in that situation if the picture has gone south in May. You have the reserves that we can tap into to really help supplement the other solutions identified earlier in the process.”

Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) said the report is a wakeup call.

“California’s economy is weakening, and now with persistent inflation, the revenue that is coming into the State of California is coming in way below projection,” Fong said. “As someone who has been on the budget committee for a number of years, we have been warning about this. The ruling party in Sacramento continues to spend and grow government programs without any accountability and the budget is completely unsustainable. We have to refocus on fiscal responsibility.”

LAO’s budget forecast comes on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic-controlled Legislature estimated $97 billion surplus that led to the expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility to all immigrants in 2024, a boost in the earned income tax credit, and free preschool for 4-year-olds.

A relief package, priced at $17 billion, to help families, seniors and low-income Californians and small businesses was also approved in June by lawmakers.

The surplus is gone once a budget is passed, according to the LAO, so the fiscal outlook provided to legislators assumes that current state laws and policies will remain in place.

“We make adjustments for caseloads and things that influence the budget expenditures, but if you keep the same policies what would your budget picture look like?” Petek said. “That is what we are trying to tee up for them as they await the governor’s proposal.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Shirley Weber Sworn in as California’s First Elected Black Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the state, responsible for overseeing and certifying elections, as well as testing and certifying voting equipment for use in California. Weber’s duties also include overseeing the state’s archives division and registry of businesses.

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As her grandchildren Kadir and Jalil Gakunga looked on California Secretary of State Shirley Weber was sworn in to her first term in the position by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). CBM photo.
As her grandchildren Kadir and Jalil Gakunga looked on California Secretary of State Shirley Weber was sworn in to her first term in the position by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). CBM photo.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

On Jan. 9, with the sound of African drumming in the background, Shirley Weber was sworn in as the first elected Black Secretary of State (SOS) of California and the 32nd person to hold the position.

The ceremony was conducted at the SOS’ auditorium in downtown Sacramento, one block south of the State Capitol.

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) administered the oath of office in front of Weber’s grandsons Kadir and Jalil Gakunga.

“I want to thank all of those who work so hard to make this position, the Secretary of State — and all of those wonderful things that come with it — possible, and for being in my life,” Weber said. “I have been blessed beyond imagination with all of the good things California has to give.”

The daughter of a sharecropper from Hope, Arkansas, Weber said she is “not supposed to be here” as the state’s chief clerk, overseeing a department of 500-plus employees.

Weber grew up in a two-room, “clapboard house” in Arkansas with her parents and five other siblings before the family relocated to Los Angeles where they lived in Pueblo Del Rio, a housing project known as the “pueblos.”

Weber said the “data” projected that she would not have a bright future. Still, she went on to graduate from UCLA with a PhD, serve on the San Diego Board of Education, teach African American studies at San Diego State University, and successfully run for California State Assembly in November 2012.

“My father came from Hope, Arkansas, because there was no hope in Hope,” Weber said. “He came to California because he wanted his children to have a better chance and a better life.”

When Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla the state’s junior U.S. Senator in January 2021, he nominated Weber as SOS. Padilla filled in for Sen. Kamala Harris, who had been elected U.S Vice President. Weber was officially installed as SOS in April 2021.

Weber’s plan after serving in the Legislature was to move to Ghana, Africa, and “build a house up in the hills.” But that all changed when Newsom called.

“It was hard for me to think about becoming Secretary of State because I was so content in the Assembly,” Weber said. “When I was asked to be Secretary of State, I thought hard and long about it. I realized that everything about the Secretary of State was central to my life. I thought to myself that I am always the one taking the hard challenges. I said who better than a kid of sharecropper, who never had a chance to vote, who could fight for the rights of voters.”

The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the state, responsible for overseeing and certifying elections, as well as testing and certifying voting equipment for use in California. Weber’s duties also include overseeing the state’s archives division and registry of businesses.

In her remarks, Atkins praised Weber’s “leadership” and “morality” and called her “a tireless champion of democracy,” adding that those characteristics are integral to performing the duties of Secretary of State.

Atkins told guests that she first met Weber when she was 24 years old and that Weber helped her run for state Assembly.

For the first time in its history, California has three Black constitutional officers. The others are Controller Malia M. Cohen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

“You know, our constitutional officers are unique, and I give credit to our Governor (Gavin Newsom) and the people of California.”

“There is no other list of constitutional officers like this? Where do you have a list of constitutional officers where it only has one white male in it? That is unheard of. The diversity (and) the fact that women are constitutional officers in California is historic.”

Weber’s daughter, Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was the ceremony’s emcee while Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) provided the invocation. David Bauman’s African drumming and musical selections by Dr. Tecoy Porter, pastor of Genesis Church Sacramento and president of the National Action Network Sacramento Chapter and his Genesis Church choir provided the entertainment. Weber’s son Akil Weber provided the closing statements.

“Words cannot express how truly proud I am of what my mother has done, what she will continue to do, the door she has opened, the legacy she is creating,” Assemblymember Akilah Weber said of her mother.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

California’s First African American Controller Malia Cohen Takes Office

“I am proud and honored to serve as California’s state controller,” said Malia M. Cohen. “The work to create a more equitable California has already begun. I look forward to ensuring fiscal accountability, with an eye toward transparency and innovation.

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Malia Cohen was sworn in by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 3. Photo by Robert Maryland, California Black Media.
Malia Cohen was sworn in by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 3. Photo by Robert Maryland, California Black Media.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

Last week, Malia M. Cohen was sworn in as the first Black woman — and first African American — to serve as California’s state controller.

On Monday, Jan. 2, the oath of office was administered by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“I am proud and honored to serve as California’s state controller,” said Cohen. “The work to create a more equitable California has already begun. I look forward to ensuring fiscal accountability, with an eye toward transparency and innovation.”

On Jan. 6, Cohen was given the oath of office by San Francisco Mayor London Breed with her husband Warren Pulley by her side.

The community event was held at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento.

California now has three Black politicians holding Constitutional offices including Cohen. Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond are the others.

“Congratulations @MaliaCohen. As California’s first Black state controller, Malia has made history and continues to break barriers while helping build long-term equity throughout our communities. I’m confident she will continue fighting for the rights of all Californians,” Breed stated in a Jan. 6 post on her Twitter page.

“I am excited to get to work on creating a more equitable California as your next Controller,” Cohen tweeted on Jan. 6.

Cohen was elected to the California Board of Equalization (BOE) in November 2018 and was named chairperson in 2019 and 2022. As Controller, Cohen continues to serve BOE as its fifth voting member.

Prior to being elected to BOE, Cohen was president of the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco. As a member of that body, she also served as the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and president of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS).

Cohen was born and raised in San Francisco. Her political journey, she says lightheartedly, began when she was elected class president of San Francisco’s Lowell High School, the oldest public high school on the West Coast.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Fisk University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), and a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.

She and her husband reside in San Francisco along with their daughter.

As the chief fiscal officer of California, Cohen is responsible for accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources. The controller also has independent auditing authority over government agencies that spend state funds.

Cohen’s duties include being a member of numerous financing authorities, and fiscal and financial oversight entities including the Franchise Tax Board. She also serves on the boards for the nation’s two largest public pension funds.

At the St. Paul Baptist Missionary Baptist Church swearing-in, Kenneth Reece, the senior pastor, gave the opening prayer.

Held at the church six miles from the State Capitol, Cohen’s swearing-in ceremony included prayers offered by Imam Yasir Kahn, the chaplain of the California State Assembly, and Rabbi Mona Alfi, the senior rabbi of Congregation B’Nai Israel.

Among the guests were Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Director of Bay Area Rapid Transit Bevan Duffy, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez, the singer Aloe Blacc and Jaqueline Thompson, pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland.

Cohen’s swearing-in was held on the second anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The day was packed with political activities in Sacramento and overshadowed by references to the infamous Capitol insurrection in Washington that shocked people across the country and around the world.

That day, Newsom was sworn in to a second term. Rob Bonta was also sworn-in for the first time as the state’s attorney general. He was appointed to the position by Newsom in March 2021.

Before Newsom’s outdoor ceremony, the governor, his wife, and four children led a march from West Sacramento, across the Tower Bridge, to the Capitol. During the governor’s address on the steps of the Capitol, he shared his feelings about the attack on the U.S. Capitol two years ago while addressing some of the state’s most pressing issues.

“Our politics doesn’t always reward taking on the hardest problems. The results of our work may not be evident for a long time. But that cannot be our concern,” Newsom said. “We will prepare for uncertain times ahead. We will be prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars, pay down debt, and meet our future obligations. And we will build and safeguard the largest fiscal reserve of any state in American history.”

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Activism

Tony Thurmond Starts Second Term as State Addresses Educational Inequity

“We’re offering scholarships for anyone who wants to become a teacher. $20,000,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) Tony Thurmond told California Black Media. “I sponsored a bill, HB 520, that was focused on how we get more male educators of color. And that bill turned into funding in the state budget. That now means our residency programs can be used to help have male educators of color as part of the beneficiaries of that program.”

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State Supt. of Public Instruction speaks with a student after his swearing in on Jan. 7. Photo by Max Elramsisy, California Black Media.
State Supt. of Public Instruction speaks with a student after his swearing in on Jan. 7. Photo by Max Elramsisy, California Black Media.

By Max Elramsisy | California Black Media

State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) Tony Thurmond took the oath of office to begin his second term on Jan. 7 at a ceremony conducted at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles.

Thurmond oversees the education of 6 million PreK-12 students in over 1,000 public school districts across California.

Although SPI is a non-partisan office, Thurmond drew support from many of the state’s top Democrats in his bid for re-election, including from Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and several members of the California Legislative Black Caucus. He was also endorsed by unions across the state, including the California Federation of Teachers and California Teachers Association.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona performed the ceremonial swearing in of Thurmond, who then reflected on his path to the office. The son of a Panamanian immigrant mother and Vietnam veteran father who did not return to his family after the war, Thurmond and his brother were raised by their cousin and relied on public assistance programs and public schools to make it out of poverty.

“I am standing on the shoulders of those relatives who struggle and sacrifice so that we could have a better life,” Thurmond said after he was sworn in. “It was the sacrifices of teachers and classified staff and childcare workers and school administrators who make it possible for me to stand here today as your public servant fighting for 6 million students in the great state of California.”

Thurmond’s first term coincided with one of the most tumultuous periods in California’s history — a time, he says, that brought with it many unforeseen challenges.

“We all watched it together. The lives lost and impacted and disrupted by the pandemic,” Thurmond said before naming other cultural, social and political developments the country endured as the COVID-19 crisis intensified.

“The killing of George Floyd, fighting hate against the Asian American Pacific Islander community, racism targeted directly to African American families, anti-Semitism, the mistreatment of Latino families, immigrant families, we have seen so much hate all in such a short period of time that we would move into a pandemic and find out that, in a state with all the wealth that we have in California, that a million students could be without a computer,” Thurmond added. “That is the most important thing that they needed to be connected to in those early days through remote learning.”

Thurmond says his administration stepped up to address challenges presented by the pandemic.

“We know that the impact this has had clearly affected student proficiency levels where they are now compared to where they were a few years before the pandemic and of course, a deep, deep impact on the mental health of our students and our families,” he said.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety and hospitalizations for children and it has been difficult for them,” Thurmond continued. “But our children are more than the sum of their circumstances. They’ve demonstrated their resiliency, and they’re on the path to recovery, and we’re going to help them with that because we just secured enough money to recruit 10,000 counselors for our schools in the state of California.”

The addition of counselors is good news for teachers across the state seeking resources to help their students recover and develop in areas outside of academics where school also plays a crucial role for many students.

“I was very excited when Superintendent Thurman said that there would be 10,000 counselors coming to the school sites because we need that,” said Bridgette Donald-Blue, an elementary school math teacher and California Teacher of the Year award recipient. “The emotional health of our students, that is important, that is very important.”

The SPI does not have any legislative role. But Thurmond, who served in the California State Assembly for two terms, sponsored or endorsed several legislative initiatives that may have a profound effect on the future of education in California and the role that schools play to meet the social and emotional needs of students to provide a positive learning environment.

Thurmond says, beginning in the 2022–23 school year, the California Universal School Meal Program will help all students to reach their full academic potential by providing a nutritiously adequate breakfast and lunch at no charge for all children each school day regardless of individual eligibility.

Thurmond also has initiatives to combat inequities in the school system including universal preschool for 4-year-olds regardless of background, race, zip code, immigration status, or income level. He also launched the Black Student Achievement Taskforce to help quantify the impacts systemic and institutional racism have had on Black students in California.

Thurmond points out that he sponsored legislation to increase funding to the lowest-performing students, ban suspension and expulsions in preschools, and secured $90 million for suspensions and chronic absenteeism programming.

“I know the impacts of what happens when our students don’t learn to read by third grade. Sadly, they end up dropping out in many cases and in the criminal justice system, and we’re going to change the narrative and flip the script. We’re going to educate, not incarcerate our kids.” Thurmond repeated a pledge for today’s kindergarteners to be able to “read by third grade.”

Recently, some education advocates pointed out that there has been a reported wave of retirements and disincentives that have led to an unprecedented teacher shortage across the nation.

In response, Thurmond says he is creating new incentives to draw qualified people into the school system to help students, especially those who are of color.

“We’re offering scholarships for anyone who wants to become a teacher. $20,000,” Thurmond told California Black Media. “I sponsored a bill, HB 520, that was focused on how we get more male educators of color. And that bill turned into funding in the state budget. That now means our residency programs can be used to help have male educators of color as part of the beneficiaries of that program.”

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