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Austerity nor Federal Policymakers Will Save Us, California Needs Serious Public Investment

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It’s October 15 and still Congress and the Trump Administration haven’t provided the $14 billion California leaders planned for in the 2020–21 state budget agreement in order to roll back “trigger cuts” — otherwise known as spending that won’t happen on K-12 education, the California State University and University of California systems, housing production, and other services for Californians.

This means that students, families, and individuals won’t have the supports and resources needed to weather the COVID-19 health and economic crisis safely.

Whether support will come from new rounds of federal negotiations over possible COVID relief, Californians won’t know for days or even many more weeks. And even if California eventually receives additional federal support, we don’t know that it will be enough to prevent even deeper cuts in next year’s state budget.

What we do know is public investment is key for California as the pandemic continues to sicken and kill thousands of Black and Latinx Californians and block millions of Californians from employment to pay for basic necessities like housing and food amid the worst recession in recent history.

State leaders must take action to provide greater state support and produce the revenues needed to make significant public investment in California’s future.

California state leaders cannot afford to repeat history, allowing cuts to dominate fiscal and policy decisions, especially in a time of crisis and recession.

Instead, as the California Budget & Policy Center said in our budget 2020–21 analysis earlier this year: “While additional federal resources are crucial to help support Californians, our state leaders must take action to provide greater state support and produce the revenues needed to make significant public investment in California’s future.” In other words, state leaders must be willing to consider equitable taxes as part of their response to the recession.

At the Budget Center, our mission is to engage in independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving public policies affecting the economic and social well-being of Californians with low and middle incomes.

As the October 15 deadline state leaders set to receive federal funding expires, it’s time for California policymakers to lead.

And what we know is sound fiscal and policy calls for borrowing appropriately and raising taxes in ways that produce significant additional revenue, make the state’s tax system more equitable for Californians and improve the state’s economic outlook.

These are the choices and decisions state policymakers can make to help the Californians hit hardest by this pandemic and recession.

Yes, we still need federal fiscal relief, as many states and local communities do.

But as the October 15 deadline state leaders set to receive federal funding expires, it’s time for California policymakers to lead.

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Independent policy research, analysis, and commentary with the goal of helping create an economy that works for all Californians.

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