SACRAMENTO — A month ago, California legislators were almost unbridled in their ambition to ease the financial pain the coronavirus pandemic is causing to people and the economy.
They proposed a $100 billion stimulus plan in July that called for backfilling an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits if Congress didn’t extend the aid. They wanted to expand a host of safety-net programs, including increasing tax credits for low-income Californians.
But with lawmakers’ 2020 session drawing to a close Monday night, few of the major ideas have come to fruition. There will be no state-supplied extra jobless benefits and no expansion of low-income tax credit amounts.
Many pieces of legislators’ $100 billion proposal never even resulted in formal proposals. Besides the jobless benefit, they included:
• Providing unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants who have lost their jobs.
• Creating incentives for California companies to manufacture masks and other coronavirus protective and testing equipment.
• Borrowing money to fund more projects to combat climate change and pollution, such as recycling facilities and infrastructure to adapt to sea-level rise.
• Allowing California to sell tax vouchers, which would let individual taxpayers and companies prepay their taxes for future years at a discount, to help fund stimulus efforts. Lawmakers are now considering a bill to study the idea.
Much of the breakdown appears to have come in negotiations between Democratic legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was hesitant to back some of the more expensive proposals.
Timing was also a hurdle. The Legislature has repeatedly delayed business this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. They must adjourn by midnight Monday.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who chairs the budget committee, was among the legislators who helped craft the stimulus plan outline. He said Newsom administration officials seemed open to some stimulus proposals but that lawmakers and the governor were not able to reach agreement “given the time frame.”
Ting said legislators would continue to push their ideas into the fall.
“Millions of Californians are financially suffering. They’re worrying about how they’re going to pay their bills,” Ting said. “The pandemic continues, the suffering continues. It’s the state’s job to figure out how best to assist them.”
The centerpiece of the legislators’ stimulus plan was the proposal to extend the extra $600 in weekly benefits for unemployed Californians that the federal government had supplied until July.
President Trump has backfilled $300 of the expired benefit by diverting federal disaster money, but funding is not expected to last more than a few weeks. If the federal money dries up, the average jobless payment in California could again be reduced to about $338 a week.
Ting said Newsom was reluctant to take action on jobless benefits at the state level while there is still a chance Congress could act. He said he has urged the governor to consider calling lawmakers back for a special session on unemployment benefits before the Legislature’s scheduled return in January.
“I don’t think we can wait until January to act,” Ting said.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Two weeks ago, the governor released his own list…