California Residents Outraged After State Approves Millions in Reparations While Battling $47 Billion State Deficit

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 09, 2024

Amid a daunting $47 billion deficit, California has earmarked up to $12 million for reparations. 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on this initiative, highlighting the state’s commitment to address its historical wrongs against Black Californians, despite a long history of inaction at the federal level.

Unpacking the Budget

Governor Newsom’s approval of the $297.9 billion budget, which includes funds for reparations, raises eyebrows and questions alike. 

Governor Gavin Newsom delivering a speech about the budget revision for 2024-25, standing at a podium with a digital display showcasing California's scenic imagery in the background

Source: CAgovernor/X

With no specifics on how the funds will be used and no immediate plans for direct payments, Californians are left wondering what comes next.


Steps Toward Righting Wrongs

The state’s lawmakers are not just talking; they’re planning. 

A crowd of diverse demonstrators holding signs, one prominently displaying 'REPARATIONS NOW' in a busy urban street settin

Source: leslibless/X

Current discussions include possibly issuing a formal apology for past discrimination, setting up a reparations agency, and identifying families who lost property through unjust eminent domain.

California Leads, Others Follow

While California pioneers with tangible steps toward reparations, other states are on their own paths. 

The California State Capitol building on a clear day, viewed from the front with lush trees surrounding the classic architecture

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Illinois and New York are exploring options, while Florida supports descendants of racial violence through educational scholarships—a mosaic of efforts across the nation.

A Divided Opinion

Not everyone agrees with spending on reparations. Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher sharply critiqued, saying, “Slavery was a stain on our nation’s history, but I don’t believe it’s fair to try to right the wrongs on the past at the expense of the people today who did nothing wrong.” 

Portrait of Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, featuring him smiling in a formal suit with the California and United States flags in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This reflects a broader debate about responsibility and fairness.

More Needed?

“The $12 million is not nearly enough,” says Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire.

A group of California state officials, including legislators and the governor, witnessing the signing of a bill at a desk, surrounded by American and California state flags

Source: ilike_mike/X

This echoes a sentiment among some officials that while the start is good, much more is needed to genuinely tackle the deep scars of injustice.


Running the Numbers

Maintaining a reparations agency could cost California $3 to $5 million a year.

A faded and vintage-looking welcome sign that reads "Welcome to California" with poppy flowers and a notice about entering Pacific Time

Source: Elijah Ekdahl/Unsplash

Not to mention the additional costs of investigating claims about property taken through racial discrimination, which could run into the hundreds of thousands.


Roadblocks in the Legislature

Despite intentions, not all reparative measures are making it through.

A plain white building facade with multiple windows, each featuring different shades and slight shadows cast on the wall

Source: Will Swann/Unsplash

Initiatives for tax relief and housing assistance for descendants of enslaved people were stopped in their tracks by legislative committees earlier this year.


Educational Hopes Unmet

The lack of legislative action on recommended free tuition for descendants of enslaved Black individuals was a disappointment this year, noted Kamilah Moore, chair of the reparations task force. 

Three young professionals, two men and one woman, smiling and posing for a photo in a sunny outdoor setting with a building in the background

Source: KamilahVMoore/X

It was a setback in the educational front of reparative efforts.


A Promising Start

Despite the hurdles, Moore views the $12 million allocation positively, seeing it as “taking accountability and responsibility, and acknowledging the harms and the atrocities to this particular population.” 

A diverse crowd at a reparations rally, featuring various handmade signs, including one that says "World Leaders! Reparation for Slavery Now!" with people of different ages and backgrounds participating

Source: KamilahVMoore/X

It’s a significant, albeit initial, step in a long journey toward healing.


Reflecting a Diverse State

The reparations debate in California mirrors its diverse populace, where many are recent arrivals themselves. 

A protester holding a sign at a rally that reads "CA Reparations Now 2023" with the outline of California state and legislative bill number AB 3121

Source: KamilahVMoore/X

The discourse delves into how a state rich in cultures addresses historical grievances that predate many of its current residents.


Setting a Precedent

California’s pioneering steps in reparations could well influence broader national policies. 

A woman standing beside a car at a rally, holding a poster that reads "CA Reparations Now 2024" and another sign quoting Martin Luther King Jr., with a crowd and various signs visible in the background

Source: KamilahVMoore/X

The state’s decisions and their outcomes might just shape how reparations are approached across America, signaling a potential shift in how the country confronts and reconciles with its past.