California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said conservative media incorrectly presented his previous comments that appeared to indicate he did not support paying reparations to black Californians who were descendants of slaves and he is, in fact, open to the idea.
“The sensationalized framing in pieces published by outlets like Fox News and others is inaccurate,” Anthony York, chief communication advisor for Newsom, told The Sacramento Bee. “The Governor looks forward to reviewing the final report — and all recommendations — when complete.”
Last week, the nine-member California Reparations Task Force recommended that the state issue a formal reparative monetary apology, including distributing up to $1.2 million to eligible black California residents based on calculated dollar figures in categories ranging from mass incarceration to housing discrimination and other alleged injustices.
Newsom, who appointed five of the nine task force members, praised the committee’s work to “advance systemic changes” — but stopped short of endorsing its recommendation for cash payouts.
The governor told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that finding a way to address the “legacy” left behind by the institution of slavery was a complicated issue that was “about much more than cash payments.”
York told the Bee that Newsom has not declined to support issuing cash reparations payments to black residents, and he will meet with state lawmakers and review the final report.
California Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford, a task force member, told POLITICO he wouldn’t count on state lawmakers to approve payments and that the comments from Newsom were “acknowledging political reality,” as reported by the outlet.
“I’m realistic enough to know that we might not have colleagues who are willing to do that,” Bradford said.
“I think he’s setting a real realistic expectation that there probably won’t be check payments in the tune of or the amount that we’ve batted around for the last two years since we started this process,” he added.
Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3121 into law in 2020, authored by then-Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, which created a task force to explore how eligible black California residents could receive compensation for an exhaustive list of injustices since the state entered the Union in 1850. Although California joined the Union outlawing slavery, the draft states that it did not pass laws at the time to guarantee freedom.
Panel members recommended an apology from the California legislature that should include a “censure of the gravest barbarities carried out on behalf of the State.”
“Reparations are not only morally justifiable, but they have the potential to address long-standing racial disparities and inequalities,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) told The Associated Press.
According to the task force’s report, black communities impacted by mass incarceration and over-policing aligning with the national War on Drugs could receive about $115,260 per person, or $2,352 each year they lived in California from 1971-2020.
Panel members said black residents impacted by lending and zoning redlining by banks between 1933 and 1977 could receive $3,366 for each year they resided in California, capping at $148,099. Another method created by the panel calculated gaps between black and white “housing wealth” at $145,847 per person. Other alleged injustices and discriminations in health estimated $13,619 per person for each year lived in California.
Based on a New York Times analysis, a black person living in California for 71 years — the average life expectancy of black residents in California in 2021 — could receive up to $1.2 million. Some economists projected to The Associated Press that California could owe more than $800 billion in reparations, which more than doubles the state’s annual budget.
Newsom’s clarified stance on the reparations plan comes days after he announced a greater-than-anticipated state budget deficit of roughly $31.5 billion — a $9 billion increase from the $22.5 billion deficit in the budget he proposed in January.
Task force members are scheduled to release the finalized report by July 1. If lawmakers approve the plan, the state will create a new agency to oversee the program, determine eligibility, and distribute funds.