SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP/CBS13) — The California Legislature is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would help pay for guaranteed income programs across the state.
It would be the first state-funded program of its kind in the country, a major step for supporters whose goal is to take guaranteed income nationally.READ MORE: 'It Meant The World To Me': Oakdale Officer Thanks Citizens Who Helped Him After Hit-And-Run
“The next stop is the federal government,” said former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.
Tubbs is an advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and ran a high-profile guaranteed income program while he was mayor.
Same thing happened when we launched @stocktondemo our guaranteed income pilot. "socialism" "dumb" "will never happen" "young Mayor is crazy.". Now tomorrow the child tax credit starts- a guaranteed income for 90% of families.
— Michael Tubbs (@MichaelDTubbs) July 14, 2021
For decades, most government assistance programs have had strict rules about how the money should be spent, usually limiting benefits to things like food or housing. But a guaranteed income program gives money to people with no rules on how to spend it. The idea is to reduce the stresses of poverty that cause health problems and make it harder for people to find and keep work.
“It changes the philosophy from ‘big brother government knows what’s best for you,’” said state Sen. Dave Cortese, a Democrat from San Jose. “We’ve been very prescriptive with that population as a state and as counties go. Look at the failure. Half of them don’t get their high school diplomas, let alone advance like other people their age.”READ MORE: Could Mask Mandates Drive Business To Surrounding Counties Who Don't Have One?
But critics — like Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — say guaranteed income programs are “wealth transfer from productive individuals to those who may choose not to be productive.” He said a more appropriate use of taxpayer money would be scholarships or something else that incentivizes education.
“It’s less offensive if it is targeted to people who truly need it,” he said.
Guaranteed income programs date back to the 18th century. The U.S. government even experimented with them in the 1960s and 1970s during the Nixon administration before they fell out of favor.
But recently, guaranteed income programs have been making a comeback, starting at the local level in places like Stockton. Similar programs have been announced in New Orleans; Oakland, California; Tacoma, Washington; Gainesville, Florida; and Los Angeles — the nation’s second-largest city.
Many of these programs have been privately funded, making it easier for elected officials to sell the public on an idea that they don’t have to pay for. But California’s funding — $35 million to start with this year — would likely launch a slew of new publicly-funded programs across the state.
Local governments and nonprofit organizations can apply for the money, and the state Department of Social Services will decide who gets it. The state wants to target the money on programs that benefit pregnant people and children aging out of the foster care system, who often must make the transition to adulthood on their own.
If the statewide programs are successful, Cortese said he’d like to see the state expand to provide guaranteed income to seniors, a population projected to grow rapidly in California and across the country in recent years. He says the next step would be to gradually replace some traditional safety net programs with guaranteed income.
But State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said she sees guaranteed income programs as supplementing traditional safety net programs — especially for pregnant people.MORE NEWS: Kaiser Permanente Sued By Federal Government Over Alleged Medicare Fraud
“We want life in California to start out with success,” Skinner said.