By Toni G. Atkins
May is the month when we celebrate our mothers and when we honor the memories of those who gave their lives in service to our nation (Memorial Day). This May is a little different, because it also includes the income tax deadline that we normally see on April 15th. The May 17th deadline means that is when we will have a final picture of what the state’s revenues are as we work to enact a state budget by the constitutional deadline in June.
I have to tell you how excited I am about the budget we are proposing in the Senate. The Senate’s Build Back Boldly proposal provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make transformational change in California, and it builds nicely on the responsible budgeting and investing that Democratic legislators and governors have done for more than a decade now.
From helping businesses and families bounce back from the pandemic, to expanding health care, to opening new paths for early childhood education and debt-free college, to reducing homelessness, increasing housing affordability and boosting homeownership, there is a lot to like in this budget proposal. Some items that were still being negotiated weren’t able to be included in the Build Back Boldly proposal as released, such as the $5 billion in additional tax relief we just passed for businesses to allow them to deduct business expenses they paid with federal PPP funds against their state tax bill.
And we are in the process of finalizing an agreement to provide additional resources to deal with drought conditions as we head toward another hot, dry summer.
May is also when we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) History Month. How we mark the occasion this year is especially important as we stand with AAPI communities against the alarming rise in hate crimes against members of those communities. I am pleased that after confirmation by the Senate and Assembly, AAPI History Month will start with our new Attorney General Rob Bonta on the job fighting those attacks and working to build a more just and equitable system for us all.
Besides the budget, there is a lot on the Senate’s to-do list in May. We continue to meet with housing stakeholders to advance the Senate’s housing package—my own SB 9 has been approved by both of the Senate policy committees that heard the bill. I will also continue to work with my colleague from Los Angeles, Senator Steven Bradford, on SB 2, our legislation to increase accountability for law enforcement officers who commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights. The recent addition of Daunte Wright’s name to the tragic roll call of Black Americans unjustly killed by police is the latest example of why this bill is so badly needed.
As I said in a statement the day the guilty verdict was issued in the murder of George Floyd, “We, as a society – not just Black, Brown, Asian, or ethnically-diverse individuals – are beginning to confront the reality that systemic racism is the real root of the problem. We have to continue that change from within, accept the reality of what has been happening, and chart a course for change.”
So, yes, a lot to do in May, but that’s okay. I know I can rely on the energy and work ethic I inherited from a very good source—Betty Catherine Davis Atkins, who would have turned 90 on May 2nd. Thank you, Mom — and Happy Mother’s Day to all!
— Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.Senate.ca.gov/Atkins.