California Puts $12 Million Slice of Budget Into Reparations

California Puts $12 Million Slice of Budget Into Reparations

(L-R) State Sen. Steven Bradford, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, task force member Lisa Holder, and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer hold up a final report of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans during a hearing in Sacramento on June 29, 2023. (Haven Daley/AP)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore


Updated: 7/1/2024


A newly announced budget agreement between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders includes $12 million to begin implementing the recommendations issued last year by the state’s reparations task force.
Supporters said the money is a step in the right direction.
“I know it’s a start, not enough,” one reparations organizer posted on June 23 on X. “Specifically, this shows that ... we can spend money for reparations while fixing our budget deficit and ... that state budgets can be used to fund reparations.”
The plan would allow the state’s director of finance to use the money to “augment” certain departments—including potentially hiring people—to comply with legislation currently under consideration.
Following suggestions made by the nine-member task force in its 1,100-page report, lawmakers introduced 14 bills this year. The package of bills focuses on criminal justice reform, property rights, education, and civil rights, among other things.
None, however, directly addresses the recommendation that cash payments be given to eligible descendants of slaves.
“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said in a January statement announcing the legislation. “As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.”
One bill making its way through the Legislature—Senate Bill 1403, introduced by state Sen. Steven Bradford—would establish the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency to allow the state to determine eligibility for reparations benefits and potentially cash payments
“The creation of this agency underscores our state’s commitment to confronting its past and working towards a more equitable future,” the nonprofit American Redress Coalition of California Sacramento said in legislative analyses. “It sends a powerful message that we are willing to confront uncomfortable truths and take meaningful action to address the lingering effects of historical injustices.”
Another measure introduced by Mr. Bradford—Senate Bill 1331—would establish a fund to receive money from local, state, and federal governments for the purpose of distributing reparations payments.
While some critics argue that California isn’t responsible for slavery because it was never a slave state, the author disagrees.
“It was a free state in name only,” Mr. Bradford told the Senate’s Judiciary Committee during a hearing in April. “California practiced everything that a slave state did.”
He also countered claims made by some lawmakers and critics that those who never owned slaves are now being asked to pay for past grievances they were not associated with.
“If you can inherit generational wealth, then you can inherit generational debt,” Mr. Bradford said.
Some critics questioned the idea of paying out cash reparations and benefits that could total $800 billion, especially considering the state’s significant fiscal problems—with lawmakers looking to solve a shortfall of about $73 billion, as estimated by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“People should be calling out the California task force for using reparations as promotion in a state with ... [a budget deficit],” Antonio Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, posted June 23 on X. “It makes no sense.”
Supporters of the reparations plan said that historical wrongs need to be addressed.
“We will endeavor to right the wrongs committed against black communities through laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate African Americans,” Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a member of the reparations task force, said in the caucus statement.
Mr. Jones-Sawyer also introduced this year a measure—Assembly Bill 3089—calling for the state to issue a formal apology.
In a study by the Berkeley Institute of Intergovernmental Studies in September 2023, Californians reported support for the idea that the history of slavery negatively affects black residents, although 59 percent of respondents opposed cash payments while 28 percent were in favor.
During his budget proposal conference in January, Gov. Newsom said he supports the recommendations from the task force but steered clear of discussing cash payments.
“We are deeply mindful of what will come next in partnership with the caucus and the work continues in that space.”

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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