SACRAMENTO — The continued prosperity of California's richest taxpayers is filling state coffers with a $97.5 billion surplus, bringing the state's next budget to a record $300 billion, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
Much of the surplus will go to education and other dedicated funds, while the rest, about $49.2 billion, can be spent at the discretion of the Democratic governor and state lawmakers. It's California's largest budget surplus ever.
"No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this," Newsom said at a press conference in downtown Sacramento.
The money gives them yet another opportunity to spend big on their top priorities. On Friday, Newsom unveiled his updated budget plan that would use the money to provide cash relief for Californians to counteract the effects of inflation and to expand abortion care . His budget would also add spending on transportation projects and to cover costs related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The centerpiece of Newsom's plan to combat inflation and high gas prices remains his plan to send up to $800 to vehicle owners. The plan would give $400 per vehicle, with a limit of two per owner. Cars worth over a certain value would not be eligible for the payments, although Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer said that amount is to be determined.
Newsom unveiled the gas rebate plan earlier this year, but it has stalled amid opposition from some lawmakers who have argued it would be more appropriate to send cash to people based on income, not car ownership.
Newsom also wants to add billions to cover rent and utility bills that people have missed during the pandemic, and to send bonus payments of up to $1,500 for hospital and nursing home workers for their work fighting COVID-19. His budget would also add health care subsidies for middle-income families and more spending to cover child care for low-income families.
Newsom and lawmakers must agree on a budget framework by mid-June, although they could continue to hash out details for months after the fiscal year begins on July 1, as they have in recent years.
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