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California is having a terrible time coming up with a plan to handle both a large fiscal deficit and the reparations that state Democrats want to pass into law.

The Golden State is facing a $68 billion shortfall, primarily due to lower revenue in the 2023 fiscal year. Nevertheless, experts advise the state to make restitution; estimates suggest it may have to pay out up to $800 billion, three times the normal California budget.

The California Legislative Black Caucus is touring the state this week to promote 14 pieces of legislation for reparations, including two constitutional amendments.

The California Senate approved three provisions in the legislation, one of which established the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency and assisted African Americans in researching their ancestry to determine whether they would qualify for future reparations from the state.

According to the California Constitution, one of the proposed constitutional amendments would make jail work illegal. In 2022, the amendment was not able to pass the state legislature.

In the past, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) issued a warning that ending involuntary servitude might force the state to pay its prisoners the minimum wage and increase the state’s annual costs by $1.5 billion.

California has a long history of employing prison workers. One such program is the Conservation Camp Program, which trains prisoners to fight wildfires. They earn between $2.90 and $5 a day as firefighters, but upon release, they are unable to reapply for the same job because the state forbids those with criminal records from holding public office.

“It’s very evident that we wish to do away with forced labor in California,” Democratic state senator Steven Bradford stated. “Anything less than that is not meeting the goal.”

Historian and University of California Santa Barbara professor Giuliana Perrone told Newsweek that “reparations, as the public has come to understand them, are not popular.”

This is a result of the general public’s ignorance of reparations. Many people believe that reparations only consist of rewards or payments made to specific individuals in order to make up for previous wrongs done to their ancestors. This is untrue,” she declared. “The purpose of reparations is to remedy the specific, ongoing harms that have persisted due to the country’s inability to completely abolish slavery.”

When California established the first task group in 2020 to look into ways to address the lasting effects that Jim Crow laws and slavery had on the black community, the state made history. Following its report, the task group provided the state with over a hundred recommendations.

Legislators would need to move fast to establish the task force because the deadline for completing ballot proposals is June 27. This would allow the task force to be on the ballot for a vote this year.

Author: Scott Dowdy

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