Since the Task Force was first put together in late 2020, following Gov. Newsom signing AB 3121 into law, they have considered and recommended reparations, monetary or otherwise, for African-Americans living in California, for discriminatory practices and slavery of the past, despite that California was never a slave state. While initially encompassing all people of African descent, the group of those qualified to receive reparations was significantly narrowed in March 2022 when the task force voted to limit the possible reparations to those who are an African American descendant of an enslaved person or free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century.
Despite heavy criticism over any cash payments still persisting, the Task Force voted to approve cash payments over the weekend. According to the Task Force’s recommendation, direct cash payments for restitution would be divided between more broader areas of compensation for large groups of eligible people, and more focused compensation based on individual harms of the past. This would included an estimated payment of $13,619 per each year of state residency for health care disparities, $3,366 per each year lived in the state between 1933 and 1977 for housing discrimination, and $2,352 per each year lived in California between 1971 and 2020 for mass incarceration and over policing.
Outside of direct monetary payments, other more social changes were recommended including removing racial bias and discriminatory practices in standardized testing, declaring election day a paid state holiday, updating language in the state’s Constitution, restoring voting rights to all formerly and currently incarcerated people, compensating people deprived of profits for their work, apologizing for acts of political disenfranchisement, implementing rent caps in historically redlined neighborhoods, and investing in and creating free health care programs.
However, despite the recommendation, many members of the Assembly and Senate lambasted the payments and other costly reparations given the overall cost, California running a budget deficit, the majority of Californians against reparations, California was a free state during the Civil War, and multiple other reasons.
Governor Newsom in particular has taken heat, as he found himself in between approving a policy that would financially harm the state or going back on his initial approval of the Task Force several years ago.
“This has been a fool’s errand from the start,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). “Democrats have promised the world with this reparations task force, and now the massive taxpayer bill is coming due. Newsom has painted himself into a corner, and he’ll have to choose between signing off on a ridiculous policy that will bankrupt the state or admitting once and for all that this task force was nothing more than a political stunt.”
On Tuesday, Newsom said that he would approve many parts of the reparation recommendations, but would not support any cash payments. Instead, he gave a vague approval of the Task Force’s work for coming up with the recommendations.
“The Reparations Task Force’s independent findings and recommendations are a milestone in our bipartisan effort to advance justice and promote healing,” said Newsom to Fox News on Tuesday. “This has been an important process, and we should continue to work as a nation to reconcile our original sin of slavery and understand how that history has shaped our country.”
“Dealing with that legacy of Slavery is about much more than cash payments. Many of the recommendations put forward by the Task Force are critical action items we’ve already been hard at work addressing: breaking down barriers to vote, bolstering resources to address hate, enacting sweeping law enforcement and justice reforms to build trust and safety, strengthening economic mobility — all while investing billions to root out disparities and improve equity in housing, education, healthcare, and well beyond. This work must continue.”
“Following the Task Force’s submission of its final report this summer, I look forward to a continued partnership with the Legislature to advance systemic changes that ensure an inclusive and equitable future for all Californians.”
Newsom says no to direct cash payments
While supporters of reparations had not yet responded to the Governor as of Tuesday evening, opponents embraced the news, as it would either mean an outright veto or that the final report by the Task Force in July or the subsequent bill for reparations would need to be significantly altered to cut out cash payments altogether.
“Newsom has definitely been seeing all of these estimates compared to California’s financial situation right now,” explained Legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Tuesday. “Reparations aren’t dead, but they are going to be vastly different than what people were either expecting or feared they might be.”
“He mentioned several things he would want, and those kinds of reparations would cost the state very little and do little to harm any future political ambitions. Like greater voting access, although that could be problematic if he want convicts to get the right to vote after immediately getting out. Apologies don’t cost anything. Rent caps in formerly redlined areas are already partially in place due to rent control coming up in many areas. Updating constitutional language doesn’t cost all that much, although it depends on what he wants updated too.”
“This still needs to be very closely watched, because he has changed his mind in the past, especially when being pressured by outside groups, but it looks like the worst case scenario for reparations has been avoided. And if the Task Force recommendations and bill decide to call his bluff, it could mean that Californian reparations are dead. Period.
“If this was a race, then the reparations car just blew a tire. They can still get across the finish line, but it is going to be a lot more difficult, and supporters will need to compromise and give up a lot to get anything now.”
The final Reparations Task Force recommendations report is due to the state Legislature on July 1st.