In a recent turn of events, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is drawing criticism for his hesitation to endorse a proposed $1.2 million reparations payment plan recommended by a task force.
Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher leads the criticism, suggesting Newsom is finding himself in a precarious lose-lose situation, destined to upset a portion of his liberal support base regardless of his actions, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Gallagher accused Newsom of creating an untenable situation, claiming that Californians, including new immigrants, low-income workers, and even some African Americans, would be forced to shoulder the financial burden of paying for historical wrongs committed by other states over 150 years ago. He added, "Newsom has backed himself into a corner by making big promises he can't or won't keep."
Newsom signed the bill creating the reparations task force in September 2020 in the wake of widespread protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. The task force's hearings have seen a large turnout, with activists advocating for substantial reparations for Black residents.
However, Newsom's statement to FOX News stressed that addressing the effects of slavery and discrimination was "about much more than cash payments." He pledged to continue working towards systemic changes to secure an inclusive and equitable future for all Californians.
The governor highlighted that many of the task force's recommendations were already being addressed, such as breaking down voting barriers, bolstering resources to combat hate, enacting sweeping law enforcement and justice reforms, and strengthening economic mobility.
Still, he stopped short of explicitly endorsing the reparations payments suggested by the task force. Instead, he emphasized his anticipation for a continued partnership with the Legislature to implement systemic changes post the task force's final report submission this summer.
The nine-member task force recommended that the state send up to $1.2 million checks to Black Californians, NewYork Post reported. The figure represents compensation for losses due to specific types of racial discrimination, including over-policing and mass incarceration of Black communities, discriminatory lending and zoning, injustices in health, and losses for black-owned businesses. This could see a lifelong Black California resident aged at least 71 receiving more than $1.2 million in compensation.
The task force also suggested the provision of 'down payments' as soon as any recommendations are turned into law while awaiting the calculation of total compensation. Eligibility for these payments would extend to any descendants of enslaved African Americans or “free black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century.”
The total cost of the proposed program is estimated at $640 billion, over double the state's $300 billion budget, a daunting figure given California's looming budget deficit. This projected $31.5 billion deficit would be the state's first since Newsom took office in 2019, following years of surplus from surging tax revenues. Critics argue that such steep reparations payments are highly improbable given the state's economic reality.
Critics have also suggested that Newsom's formation of the reparations task force was a political maneuver aimed at scoring points, assuming it would never pass the state legislature. Proponents, however, are urging Newsom to leverage his gubernatorial authority to enact the proposal unilaterally.
Republican Assemblyman Bill Essayli criticized Newsom for his perceived lack of leadership, stating, "This futile reparations exercise exposes the non-serious nature of Gov. Newsom's leadership." He accused Newsom of preferring to chase headlines and establish ineffective commissions instead of addressing California's pressing issues head-on.
Elizabeth Kolstad, the chairwoman of the Fresno County Republican Committee, concurred, describing the committee's establishment as a "half-baked ploy for votes and accolades."
Despite mounting criticism and skepticism, Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore expressed hope that the recommendations, including the proposed payments, could garner sufficient support from state lawmakers. Moore stated, "We've gone above and beyond" about the group's efforts.
The reparations proposal has reignited national discussions about how best to address the legacy of slavery and racism in America. While critics argue about the feasibility and political motivations of reparations, proponents continue to push for the measure.
Should the legislation pass, a state agency would be established to process claims and distribute payments, with elderly residents being the priority. With approximately 1.8 million people in California identifying as Black or African American, the potential implications of this decision are significant.
This controversial issue has placed Newsom in a difficult position, with decisions ahead likely to have lasting political and social repercussions. As speculation grows that he might run against President Joe Biden in the primaries, the world watches to see how Newsom will navigate this complex issue.