California’s $800 Billion Reparations Bill Advances Despite Budget Woes And Fairness Concerns

A California State Legislature committee has approved a controversial bill that could allocate a staggering $800 billion for slavery reparations, a sum that dwarfs the state’s annual budget by more than 2.5 times. The decision, which stems from the recommendations of California’s Reparations Task Force, has drawn criticism, as California never practiced slavery, and the individuals set to receive reparations were never enslaved themselves.

Established in 2020 through Assembly Bill 3121, the Reparations Task Force, composed of eight black members and one Asian member, was tasked with studying and developing reparation proposals for African Americans, educating the public on its findings, and recommending appropriate remedies. The task force ultimately voted in favor of recommendations that could include payments of at least $360,000 to each eligible black resident in the state.

The bill, which was passed in the California State Senate on May 21, 2024, with a vote of 30-7, has raised concerns about its economic impact and fairness. During a hearing by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, State Rep. Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez, the only member to voice objections, highlighted the potential burden on California’s taxpayers.

Sanchez emphasized that with Latinos and Asians constituting 55% of California’s population, most of whom are first, second, or third-generation immigrants with no connection to slavery or Jim Crow laws, it would be “fundamentally unfair” to force them to pay for reparations. She also warned of the need for an unprecedented tax hike to fund the estimated $800 billion in reparations.

California is currently facing a significant budget shortfall for the fiscal year 2024-25, with the Legislative Analyst’s Office projecting a deficit of up to $73 billion, while Governor Gavin Newsom estimates the deficit at $37.9 billion. The reparations bill’s potential cost has raised doubts about its feasibility and impact on the state’s already strained budget.