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Strong Support, Harsh Criticisms Linger as Gov. Newsom’s Budget Begins Final Negotiations

Newsom’s budget includes increased investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in education (at all levels), housing, the private sector, clean energy, agriculture, reproductive health, public safety, and more. As California makes investments and builds programs, the governor said, its spending must reflect its values.

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California state capitol.
California state capitol. File photo.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

On May 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference in Sacramento to present his $300.6 billion revised budget for fiscal year 2022-23. He has dubbed the spending plan the California Blueprint. It is the largest budget proposal in the 172-year history of the state.

During the briefing, Newsom also announced that the state is expected to have a whopping budget surplus that will increase to $97.5 billion by the summer of 2023.

“Simply without precedent: No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this,” said Newsom.

“Backed by a robust surplus and grounded in our unshakable values, we’re paving the California way forward to prosperity and progress for all,” Newsom continued, summarizing his spending plan.

“With historic investments, we’re doubling down on our formula for success and making sure no one is left behind – supporting working families and businesses, tackling climate change, expanding health care access, making our communities safer, and more,” he said.

Newsom’s budget includes increased investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in education (at all levels), housing, the private sector, clean energy, agriculture, reproductive health, public safety, and more.

As California makes investments and builds programs, the governor said, its spending must reflect its values.

“California values make us competitive globally,” said Newsom. “There is a reason California’s economy outperforms every other economy in the Western Hemisphere – 7.8% GDP growth just in the last year.”

State Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus and chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, praised the governor’s spending plan.

“I commend the governor for conveying the message through programs, healthcare, and pay equity that California will continue to thrive,” Holden said. “The proposal sets strong precedent for those still struggling through the disparate impact of the pandemic and ensures that California continues to keep the environment top of mind.”

Reacting to the governor’s budget announcement, Republican leadership in the California Assembly criticized theNewsom’s proposal, calling it “ineffective.”

“The Governor may not want to acknowledge it, but California is in crisis,” read the statement authored by Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Assemblymember Vince Fong (R- Bakersfield), Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

“Everyday Californians are being crushed by an affordability crisis worsened by 40-year high inflation,” Gallagher and Fong’s statement continued. “While the governor makes flashy political headlines, he continues to fail to make investments that will help Californians endure these tough financial times.”

On the other hand, California’s second African American Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, said Newsom’s plan to invest $128.3 billion in education, “lifts up the most critical needs” of students and schools across the state.

“As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, California public schools will see a much-needed infusion of investments at a time when students and schools, especially those that have been traditionally underserved, require more support than ever before,” Thurmond said.

Throughout his budget presentation, the governor acknowledged the challenges Californians are facing because of rapid inflation.

“The most important thing on people’s minds, understandably, is ‘How do I lower costs?’ High inflation. Record inflation,” said Newsom. “What are we going to do to ease that burden?”

“That’s why we are proposing $18.1 billion to put back in the pockets of tens of millions of Californians,” Newsom continued.

The governor’s inflation relief plan includes $11.5 billion in tax refunds; $2.7 billion in emergency rental assistance; $750 million for free public transit; $933 million in stipends for hospital and nursing home staff; $1.4 billion to help low-income families pay utility bills; $304 million in middle class health care subsidies; $439 million to offset a proposed diesel tax pause; $157 million to cover fee waivers for childcare, among other investments.

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the only Native American member of the California Legislature, says he looks forward to working with the governor to hammer out the details of the budget plan.

“Confronting the deadly fentanyl crisis, retail theft, supporting mental health services and fighting to reduce the numbers of murdered and missing Indigenous people have also been the focus of my legislation since assuming office,” Ramos said.

Three days after the governor unveiled his budget proposal, California’s non-partisan, independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) warned that the state could face an economic downturn soon.

“Predicting precisely when the next recession will occur is not possible. However, certain economic indicators historically have offered warning signs that a recession is on the horizon. Many of these indicators currently suggest a heightened risk of a recession within two years,” the LAO report stated.

Republican leaders criticized what they called the Governor’s ineffective proposals on the rising price of gas, housing affordability and the critical water shortage the state is facing. “Ignoring the people’s financial burdens, the governor refuses to provide immediate gas tax relief,” said Gallagher and Wong in their joint statement. “He did not propose any permanent tax relief to deal with a worsening affordability crisis exacerbated by his policies. Given the bone-dry conditions caused by the third year of drought, he stubbornly dismisses the cry to build more water storage and accelerate wildfire prevention projects.”

Under California state law, the governor and Legislature must complete the budget negotiation process and approve the spending proposal for the next fiscal year by June 15. The governor has until June 30 to sign it into law.

“This year’s budget is unprecedented in some of the challenges that it presents, but the Assembly has been preparing for months to meet those challenges,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “It is also reassuring to have the Senate and Pro Tem Toni Atkins as teammates for this budget process. We know how to work together to present Governor Gavin Newsom with a budget he can be proud to sign by the constitutional deadline.”

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Banning Menthol Cigarettes: California-Based Advocacy Group Joins Suit Against Federal Govt.

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

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“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”
“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media  

A California based non-governmental organization, The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), has joined two other public health advocacy groups in a second lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the agency’s inaction on issuing a final rule banning menthol cigarettes.

The suit, filed by Christopher Leung of Leung Law, PLLC on behalf of the AATCLC, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the National Medical Association (NMA) comes more than seven months after the FDA’s established date for finalizing a new rule against menthol cigarettes.

“We are a group of Californians, although we have expanded now. We were formed in 2008 to inform and direct the activities of commercial tobacco control and prevention as they affect African Americans and African immigrants in this country,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the AATCLC.

McGruder was speaking during a press briefing April 2 organized to announce the lawsuit. with representatives from the ASH, NMA and other organizations.

“Menthol cigarettes have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans,” said Yolanda Lawson, President of the NMA. “Smoking related diseases are the number one cause of death in the Black community.”

The lawsuit also follows the FDA’s 15-year delay in creating national policy that would ban cigarettes made with compound menthol, a minty substance that cigarette makers infuse into their tobacco products, making them more addictive and harmful.

Despite significant reductions in overall smoking rates in the US, smoking among poor, less educated and marginalized groups remains high. Every year, 45,000 Black Americans prematurely die from tobacco-caused diseases. An estimated 85% of them smoked menthol cigarettes.

“This disproportionate use of menthol cigarettes among Black Americans is not a coincidence,” Dr. Yerger continued. “I was one of the first tobacco documents researchers out of UCSF who exposed the tobacco industry’s systematic, predatory marketing schemes to dump highly concentrated menthol cigarette marketing into urban inner-city areas.”

In 2011, the FDA’s own scientific advisory committee concluded that the “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

If the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes is indeed banned, the FDA projects a 15.1% drop in smoking within 40 years, which would help save between 324,000 to 654,000 lives.

As a result of the Plaintiffs’ first lawsuit, the FDA made the landmark determination to add menthol to the list of banned characterizing flavors in cigarettes.

On the contrary, tobacco-aligned groups in the past have argued that banning menthol cigarettes would be impact federal and state budgets with the loss of nearly $6.6 billion in cigarette sales taxes. Menthol cigarettes account for over one-third of the U.S. cigarette market.

Other arguments from tobacco-backed groups include unintended consequences of a ban such as increased policing in Black and Brown communities due to contraband cigarettes. However, health advocates have dismissed this claim stating the ban would apply to companies that make or sell menthol cigarettes, not individual smokers.

By law, the United States has two months to respond to the lawsuit. The feds can respond to it or file a motion to dismiss.

If the suit is successful, the FDA would have 90 days to make a final ruling.

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Business

Cal. Supreme Court Could Strip Gov and Legislature of Power to Raise Taxes

On May 8, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, a measure that has already been approved for the November ballot. It calls for restricting the state Legislature and Governor’s ability to increase taxes without statewide voter approval. California business owners back the measure while Labor unions have rallied in opposition to it.

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California Supreme Court (iStock Photo)
California Supreme Court (iStock Photo)

By California Black Media

On May 8, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, a measure that has already been approved for the November ballot. It calls for restricting the state Legislature and Governor’s ability to increase taxes without statewide voter approval.

California business owners back the measure while Labor unions have rallied in opposition to it.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative Democrats have petitioned the Supreme Court to remove the proposal from the ballot since the California Constitution requires a constitutional convention to ratify the ballot with a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature.

Democrats and labor unions stated that the ballot measure could limit state and local funding thus crippling the state’s ability to produce new sources of revenue. A reduction in revenue may result in government programs and initiatives being underfunded,” they say.

Legislative Democrats also argued that the measure’s economic impact will make it harder to resolve the state’s budget deficit.

Business owners and company leaders advocating for the ballot measure stated that the tax initiative can help form new checks and balances on taxation and attract companies to invest in California creating more jobs.

President of the California Business Roundtable Rob Lapsley, a supporter of the tax initiative, said that people are fed up with the state’s high taxes.

“This gives the people of California the right to vote on future taxes, and voters are going to support it if it’s on the ballot,” Lapsley said.

Opposers of the tax initiative, mainly labor unions and state workers such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters, have aligned with Legislative Democrats to reject the tax law.

Executive director of Service Employees International Union California Tia Orr said the tax law was created to benefit wealthy corporations and deceive the average taxpayer.

“I want to make it clear that the ‘Taxpayer Deception Act’ let’s wealthy corporations, who can afford expensive campaigns, to block taxes on their industries while regular Californians, regular people, shoulder more of the cost of critical services,” Orr said.

The California Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on the future of the initiative by June 27 this year.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Cal African American Chamber of Commerce Holds Annual Gwen Moore Legislative Reception

The California African American Chamber of Commerce partnered with the California African American Action Fund to host its annual “Honorable Gwen Moore California Legislative Reception.” The event took place on May 7 at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento. Distinguished guests included business leaders, state officials, and both former and current lawmakers. Notably, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), attended the event.

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Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, received the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award at the California African American Chamber of Commerce's Gwen Moore Legislative Reception in Sacramento on May 7. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, received the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award at the California African American Chamber of Commerce's Gwen Moore Legislative Reception in Sacramento on May 7. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The California African American Chamber of Commerce partnered with the California African American Action Fund to host its annual “Honorable Gwen Moore California Legislative Reception.” The event took place on May 7 at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento.

Distinguished guests included business leaders, state officials, and both former and current lawmakers. Notably, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), attended the event. Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, 90, was the keynote speaker. Former state Sen. Roderick Wright and CAACC Executive Director Timothy Alan Simon served as emcees.

“The California African American Chamber of Commerce and the California African American Action Fund represent the African American economy of the fourth largest economy of the world,” Simon said during the introduction of the event. “Therefore, tonight let’s have some fun. We are going to learn how to acquire more power, more financial funding, and more access. We’re opening up those doors to you.”

During the reception, an award ceremony honored individuals for their achievements, innovative ideas, leadership, business acumen, and political contributions.

The CAACC Media and Communications Award was presented to Civil Rights Activist Danny Bakewell Jr., President of the Bakewell Company and Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel.

The Gwen Moore Legislative Impact Award was presented to Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC. The Legislator of the Year honor went to Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley).

“This is an absolute honor. Especially, with my knowledge and familiarity with Assemblymember Moore’s work,” Wilson said. “It’s just a reminder, honor, and privilege of this space I get to be in. This award holds profound significance for me and those who dedicated their lives to advancing equity, justice, and opportunities for all.”

Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce was presented with the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award. The Trailblazer Award was presented to the late Linda Crayton, former San Francisco City Commissioner.

Crayton served on the Airport Commission for the City and County of San Francisco from 1996 to 2020.

“She clearly served for almost 25 years, and she was totally sensitive to the need and careful implementation within the framework of all the rules that had been established,” Brown said of Crayton. She was a difference for many.”

Other leaders honored were John Reynolds, California Public Utilities Commission (recipient of the Distinguished Service Award); Hon. Heather Hutt, Councilmember for the City of Los Angeles, representing Council District 10, (Distinguished Service in the African American Community Award); and Thurman White, Senior Advisor ESO Ventures (Distinguished Recognition Award).

Rounding out the special guests and awardees list were Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), CLBC Vice Chair, Dennis Thurston, Supplier Diversity Program Manager for Southern California Edison; Angela Gibson-Shaw, President of Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce; and Tommy Ross, Pinnacle Strategic Group.

Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA) also attended the two-hour event.

“That’s the nature of how we need to work in the world of politics and, how we need to exercise authority and privilege.”

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